Old and New London: Volume 3. Originally published by Cassell, Petter & Galpin, London, 1878.
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In this section
- CHAPTER XLII.
- CHAPTER XLIII.
- CHAPTER XLIV.
"You must no more call it York Place—that is past:
For since the Cardinal fell that title's lost;
'Tis now the King's, and called Whitehall."
Shakespeare's Henry VIII., Act IV., sc. 1.
The most Polite Court in Europe—A School of Manners and Morals—Historical Account of Whitehall—Anciently called York Place—Name of York Place changed to Whitehall—Wolsey's Style of Living here—Visit of Henry VIII.—The Fall of Wolsey—Additions to the Palace by Henry VIII.—Queen Mary at Whitehall—The Palace attacked by Rioters—Tilting-Matches and Pageants—Queen Elizabeth's Library—The "Fortresse of Perfect Beautie"—Masques and Revels at Whitehall—The Office of "Master of the Revels"—The Tilt yard—Charles Killigrew—Serving up the Queen's Dinner—Christian IV. of Denmark and James I.—The Gunpowder Plot—Library of James I. at Whitehall—George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham.
The moment that we pass out of the Strand, or make our way from the Victoria Embankment into Charing Cross, and wander either westwards through Spring Gardens into St. James's Park, or in a south-west direction past Whitehall towards the venerable Abbey of Westminster, we must feel, if we know anything of the history of our country under the Tudors and the Stuarts, that we are treading on ground which is most rich in historic memories. In fact, it may be said without fear of contradiction that the triangular space which lies between the new Palaces of Whitehall and St. James's, and the old Palace at Westminster, is holy ground, having been the scene of more important events in English history than all which have been witnessed by the rest of the two cities of London and Westminster together. It is to be hoped, therefore, that the following chapter will not be deficient in interest. And this is scarcely to be expected, seeing that for all this part of London, and for this period in the annals of Great Britain, we have the most abundant stores of material provided—not merely in the gossiping Diaries of Evelyn and Pepys, but in the memoirs and correspondence of scores of statesmen, courtiers, and writers, from the Augustan era of Queen Anne down to Sir Nathaniel Wraxall, the late Duke of Buckingham, and Lord William Lennox.
Nothing can be further from our purpose than to write a complete history—either topographical or biographical—of the Palace of Whitehall. To attempt to do so would be in effect to write the history of our Tudor and Stuart sovereigns; a task which has been so well done by Miss Lucy Aiken as to render it needless for us to attempt a rival account. Whitehall was, however, as Walpole tells us, "the most polite court in Europe;" and if it was not a school of morals, at all events it was a school of manners, such as would make a "fine gentleman" or "fine lady" of the age. And therefore a few brief sketches of the palace as Englishmen find it in the reigns of Henry VIII. and Elizabeth, of James I. and Charles I., may not be a task either impossible or unattractive to our readers. It is to be feared, however, that the standard of morality was not very high among the female part of the Court at Whitehall, at the close of the reign of Charles II. Macaulay, at all events, writes:—"In that court a maid of honour who dressed in such a manner as to do full justice to a white bosom, who ogled significantly, who danced voluptuously, who excelled in pert repartee, who was not ashamed to romp with lords of the bedchamber and captains of the guards, to sing sly verses with a sly expression, or to put on a page's dress for a frolic, was more likely to be followed and admired, more likely to be honoured with royal attentions, more likely to win a rich husband, than Jane Grey or Lucy Hutchinson would have been. In such circumstances the standard of female attainments was necessarily low, and it was more dangerous to be above that standard than to be beneath it. Extreme ignorance and frivolity were thought less unbecoming in a lady than the slightest tincture of pedantry. Of the too celebrated women whose faces we still admire on the walls of Hampton Court few indeed were in the habit of reading anything more valuable than acrostics, lampoons, and translations of the Clelia and the Grand Cyrus."
It is remarked in the "New View of London," published in 1708, that "heretofore there have been many courts of our kings and queens in London and Westminster, as the Tower of London, where some believe Julius Cæsar lodged, and William the Conqueror; in the Old Jewry, where Henry VI.; Baynard's Castle, where Henry VII.; Bridewell, where John and Henry VIII.; Tower Royal, where Richard II. and Stephen; the Wardrobe, in Great Carter Lane, where Richard III. [resided]; also at Somerset House, kept by Queen Elizabeth, and at Westminster, near the Hall, where Edward the Confessor, and several other kings, kept their courts. But of later times," continues the writer, "the place for the Court, when in town, was mostly Whitehall, a very pleasant and commodious situation, looking into St. James's Park, the canal, &c., on the west, and the noble river of Thames on the east; Privy Garden, with fountain, statues, &c., and an open prospect to the statue at Charing Cross on the north." With these few words of preface let us proceed.
Whitehall was known as York Place when in the possession of Cardinal Wolsey, with whose history the palace is so intimately connected. But long before that time it had been in lay hands. We read that it was erected on lands originally belonging to one Odo, a goldsmith, and that Hubert de Burgh, Lord Chief Justice of England under John and Henry III., and who gained himself a name in the Crusades, had a mansion on this very site; having purchased the latter from the Dean and Chapter of Westminster, to whom it had been previously given or bequeathed. He left his house, about the year 1240, to the monastery of Black Friars or Dominicans, whose principal abode at that time was in Holborn. They sold it to Walter de Grey, Archbishop of York, who settled it not on his family, but on his successors in that see, as their town residence, whence it was called York Place; and it was not until it passed out of their hands into those of King Henry—how is known to every reader of a child's first History of England—that it came to be known as Whitehall; a change of name which, if not duly "recorded at the Heralds' College," is, at all events, notified by Shakespeare in the lines quoted at the head of this chapter.
To give a detailed account of all the scenes which the Palace of Whitehall witnessed in its heyday and prime, when it was the favourite abode of our Tudor and Stuart sovereigns, would really be—as we have said—to write a history of the courts and cabinets of each successive monarch from the Reformation down to the Revolution—a task which would be impossible within the limits of this book, and foreign to the purpose which we have in view. But we cannot here, in justice to our subject, forbear the due encomium to Cardinal Wolsey. We do not attempt to defend his political character, or the arrogant means by which he supported it. But he made his greatness subservient to the improvement and decoration of his country. Christ Church, Oxford, and Hampton Court are existing monuments of his liberality; and the recollection that he exhibited at his palace at Whitehall of all that was exquisite in art, refined in taste, elegant in manners, and respectable in literature, should urge us, at the same time that we pity and regret the failings of this great minister, to applaud his public spirit, and give deserved honour to the greatness of his munificence.
The sumptuous style of living adopted by Wolsey here is known to every child who has read the History of England—how he formed his domestic establishment on the model of the royal court, ranging those under his roof under three classes, to each of which a separate table was assigned, including a company of young noblemen who were placed in his household in order to receive a polite education; how he was waited on by a chef de cuisine with a gold chain round his neck, by yeomen of the barge, by a master of the horse and sixteen grooms of the stable, and a tribe of secretaries, grooms, and yeomen of the chamber, amounting in all to nearly a hundred and fifty persons. Such was the proud state which "my Lord Cardinal of York" kept at Whitehall, which in the end drew down upon him the envy and wrath of his sovereign.
Here Wolsey was visited by Henry not only privately, but also in state; and we find in Shakespeare graphic pictures of the ambitious cardinal, his sensual master, and the court manners of the period in which he lived. His gentleman usher, George Cavendish, also thus writes, in his "Life and Death of Thomas Woolsey," a work reprinted in the "Harleian Miscellany." The extract, though long, is worth preserving here as a picture complete in itself:—"He lived a long season ruling all appertaining to the King by his wisdom, and all other weighty matters of foreign regions with which the King of this realm had any occasion to intermeddle. All ambassadors of foreign potentates were always despatched by his discretion, to whom they had always access for their despatch. And when it pleased the King's Majesty, for his recreation, to repair unto the Cardinal's house, as he did at divers times in the year, at which times there wanted no preparations or goodly furniture, with viands of the finest sort that might be provided for money or friendship, such pleasures were then devised for the King's comfort and consolation as might be invented or by man's wit imagined. The banquets were set forth with masks and mummeries in so gorgeous a sort and costly manner that it was a heaven to behold. There wanted no dames or damsels meet or apt to dance with the maskers, or to garnish the place for the time with other goodly disports. Then was there all kind of music and harmony set forth, with excellent voices both of men and children. I have seen the King suddenly come in thither in a mask, with a dozen of other maskers, all in garments like shepherds, made of fine cloth of gold and fine crimson satin paned, and caps of the same, with vizors of good proportion of visnomy; their hairs and beards either of fine gold wire or else of silver, and some being of black silk: having sixteen torchbearers, besides their drums, and other persons attending upon them, with vizors, and clothed all in satin of the same colours. And at his coming, and before he came into the hall—ye shall understand that he came by water to the water-gate without any noise — where, against his coming, were laid charged many chambers, and at his landing they were all shot off, which made such a rumble in the air that it was like thunder. It made all the noblemen, ladies, and gentlemen to muse what it should mean coming so suddenly, they sitting quietly at a solemn banquet; under this sort:—First, ye shall perceive that the tables were set in the chamber of presence, banquet-wise covered, my Lord Cardinal sitting under the cloth of estate, and there having his service all alone; and then was there set a lady and a nobleman, or a gentleman and gentlewoman, throughout all the tables in the chamber on the one side, which were made and joined as it were but one table. All which order and device was done and devised by the Lord Sands, Lord Chamberlain to the King; and also by Sir Henry Guildford, Comptroller to the King. Then immediately after this great shot of guns the Cardinal desired the Lord Chamberlain and Comptroller to look what this sudden shot should mean, as though he knew nothing of the matter. They, thereupon looking out of the windows into Thames, returned again, and showed him that it seemed to them there should be some noblemen and strangers arrived at his bridge, as ambassadors from some foreign prince. With that quoth the Cardinal, 'I shall desire you, because ye can speak French, to take the pains to go down into the hall to encounter and to receive them according to their estates, and to conduct them into this chamber, where they shall see us, and all these noble personages, sitting merrily at our banquet, desiring them to sit down with us, and to take part of our fare and pastime.' Then they went incontinent down into the hall, where they received them with twenty new torches, and conveyed them up into the chamber, with such a number of drums and fifes as I have seldom seen together at one time in any masque. At their arrival into the chamber, two and two together, they went directly before the Cardinal, where he sat, saluting him very reverently; to whom the Lord Chamberlain for them said, 'Sir, forasmuch as they be strangers and can speak no English, they have desired me to declare unto your grace thus: they, having understanding of this your triumphant banquet, where was assembled such a number of excellent fair dames, could do no less, under the supportation of your good grace, but to repair hither, to view as well their incomparable beauty as for to accompany them at mumchance, and then after to dance with them, and so to have of them acquaintance. And, sir, they furthermore require of your grace license to accomplish the cause of their repair.' To whom the Cardinal answered that he was very well contented they should do so. Then the maskers went first and saluted all the dames as they sat, and then returned to the most worthiest, and there opened a cup full of gold with crowns and other pieces of coin, to whom they set divers pieces to cast at—thus perusing all the ladies and gentlemen; and some they lost, and of some they won. And thus done they returned unto the Cardinal with great reverence, pouring down all the crowns in the cup, which was about 200 crowns. 'At all,' quoth the Cardinal, and so cast the dice, and won them all at a cast, whereat was great joy made. Then quoth the Cardinal to my Lord Chamberlain, 'I pray you show them that it seemeth me that there should be amongst them some noble man, whom I suppose to be much more worthy of honour to sit and occupy this room and place than I; to whom I would gladly, if I knew him, surrender my place, according to my duty.' Then spake to them my Lord Chamberlain in French, declaring my Lord Cardinal's mind; and they, rounding him again in the ear, my Lord Chamberlain said to my Lord Cardinal, 'Sir, they confess that there is among them such a noble personage, whom, if your grace can appoint him from the other, he is content to disclose himself and to accept your place most worthily.' With that the Cardinal, taking a good advisement among them, at the last quoth he, 'Meseemeth the gentleman with the black beard should be even he.' And with that he arose out of his chair, and offered the same to the gentleman in the black beard with his cap in his hand. The person to whom he offered then his chair was Sir Edward Neville, a comely knight of a goodly personage, that much more resembled the King's person in that mask than any other. The King, hearing and perceiving the Cardinal so deceived in his estimation and choice, could not forbear laughing, but plucked down his vizor and Master Neville's also, and dashed out with such a pleasant countenance and cheer that all noble estates there assembled, seeing the King to be there amongst them, rejoiced very much. The Cardinal eftsoons desired his Highness to take the place of estate; to whom the King answered that he would go first and shift his apparel; and so departed and went straight into my Lord's bed-chamber, where was a great fire made and prepared for him, and there new apparelled him with rich and princely garments. And in the time of the King's absence the dishes of the banquet were clean taken up, and the tables spread again with new and sweet perfumed cloths, every man sitting still until the King and his maskers came in among them again, every man being newly apparelled. Then the King took his seat under the cloth of estate, commanding no man to remove, but sit still as they did before. Then in came a new banquet before the King's Majesty and to all the rest through the tables; wherein, I suppose, were served two hundred dishes or above, of wondrous costly meats and devices subtilly devised. Thus passed they forth the whole night with banqueting, dancing, and other triumphant devices, to the great comfort of the King and pleasant regard of the nobility there assembled."
It is hoped that this long quotation will be pardoned by the reader, on account of the graphic picture which it presents to his eyes of "the inner life of Whitehall" in the days of the eighth Henry.
It was at the "masque" above described that the fickle-minded monarch first cast his admiring eyes on the ill-fated Anne Boleyn. Within a few short months Whitehall Palace was the scene where Wolsey took a final leave of "all his greatness." The profusion of rich things—hangings of cloth of gold and of silver; thousands of pieces of fine holland; the quantities of plate, even of pure gold, which covered two great tables, all of which were seized by his cruel and rapacious master—are so many proofs of his amazing wealth, splendour, and pride. It was from Whitehall Stairs that the "great Lord Cardinal" entered his barge to be rowed to Esher, after his disgrace. As every reader of history knows, the Palace passed into the possession of the Crown upon the fall of Cardinal Wolsey. It was granted by Act of Parliament to Henry VIII. "because the old Palace nigh to the Monastery of St. Peter is now, and has long before been in a state of ruin and decay."
Henry VIII. seems to have taken a delight in his buildings at Whitehall, to which he added many sumptuous apartments. He also formed a collection of pictures, to which considerable additions were made by the unfortunate Charles I. Henry, as a sovereign, shows a strange admixture of barbarity and culture; "his cruelty could not suppress his love of the arts; and his love of the arts could not soften his savage nature. The prince who, with the utmost sang froid, could burn Protestants and Catholics, take off the heads of the partners of his bed one day, and celebrate new nuptials on the next, had, notwithstanding, a strong taste for refined pleasures. He cultivated architecture and painting, and invited from abroad artists of the first merit." Accordingly he commissioned Holbein to build a new gate at Whitehall with bricks of two colours, light and dark alternately, and disposed in a tesselated fashion; but of this we shall have more to say in a future chapter.
In the reign of Edward VI., it appears, there was an outdoor pulpit or preaching-place in one of the court-yards of the palace; and here Bishop Latimer, after his release from the Tower, and also many others, were in the habit of preaching, "on Sundays and holidays, to the King and the Protector, while many of all ranks resorted thither." Owing to the delicate constitution of the young king, the Parliament was held at Whitehall on one occasion during his reign.
On the last day of September, 1553, soon after her accession, Queen Mary rode in great state from the Tower, through the City, to Westminster. "The citizens received her with such respect that on her alighting at the Palace at Whitehall she publicly thanked the Lord Mayor. On the following day she was crowned with the greatest magnificence. The Lord Mayor, attended by twelve of the chief citizens, officiated as chief butler; for which service the Mayor received a gold cup and cover, weighing seventeen ounces, as his fee."
Whitehall Palace was attacked by the rioters under Sir Thomas Wyatt, and from it Elizabeth was conveyed a prisoner to the Tower, by order of her sister Mary, who had kept her "in a kind of honourable custody."
Here Lord Brooke and Sir Philip Sidney took a chief part in the tilting-matches and other pageants by which the marriage of Queen Mary with Philip of Spain was enlivened. It was this Lord Brooke (see Vol. II., p. 549) who, though no mean scholar, and an able statesman, declared that he wished to be known to posterity only as Shakespeare's friend, Ben Jonson's master, and the patron of Lord Chancellor Egerton. In November, 1558, Elizabeth made the same royal progress in equal state, and amid even greater rejoicings than had ushered in the reign of her sister Mary.
In Elizabeth's time, it would appear, there were great doings at Whitehall on several occasions. Not only were tournaments instituted, but there were "revels and maskings, and various other mummeries." Queen Elizabeth, as every reader of history knows, was passionately fond of dancing; in this sport she would occupy herself on rainy days in her palace, dancing to the scraping of a tiny fiddle; and it is impossible not to admire her humour whenever a messenger came to her from her cousin, James VI. of Scotland; for Sir Roger Ashton assures us that, as often as he had to deliver any letters to her from his master, on lifting up the hangings he was sure to find her dancing, in order that he might be able to tell James, from his own observation, how little chance there was of his early succession to the throne.
Her library at Whitehall was well stored with
books—not only in English and French, but in
Greek and Italian; and her autographs show that
she was skilful in penmanship. Among the other
distinguished foreigners who visited her here was
her lover, the Duc of Anjou, whom she received
with every species of coquetry. On the 1st of
January, 1581, was held in this yard "the most
sumptuous tournament ever celebrated," in honour
of the French commissioners sent over from
France to propose the alliance. A banquetinghouse, most superbly ornamented, was erected
within its precincts, at the expense of more than
fifteen hundred pounds. "The gallerie adjoining
to Her Majestie's house at Whitehall," says
Holingshed, in his "Chronicles," "whereat her
person should be placed, was called, and not
without cause, the Castell or fortresse of perfect
Beautie!" "Romantic fooleries!" is the quiet
remark of the antiquary Pennant; and it were well
if every comment as terse as this were equally just.
Though eight-and-forty years of age, the queen
received every outward sign of flattery that the
charms of fifteen could claim. The "fortresse of
perfect Beautie" was assailed by Desire and his
four foster-children. The combatants on both
sides were persons of the first rank, and a regular
summons was first sent to the possessor of the
"Castell" with a song, of which this is a part:—
"Yield, yield, O yield, ye that this fort do hold,
Which seated is in Honour's spotless field:
Desire's great force no forces can withhold,
Then to Desire's desire, O yield, O yield!"
This ended, we are told that "two cannons were fired off, one with sweet powder, and the other with sweet water; and after these were stores of pretty scaling-ladders, and then the footmen threw floures and such fancies against the walls, with all such devices as might seem fit shot for Desire." In the end Desire was repulsed and forced to make submission; and thus ended an "amorous foolery" which the patient reader may find described at full length in Weldon's "Court of King James."
All Christmas plays were performed before the Court by the "children of the Chapel Royal;" and we read in Ben Jonson's Life that his Cynthia's Revels was put on this stage by those juvenile actors. We read also of a masque by Ben Jonson being performed at Whitehall by command of the Queen, who appeared in it herself, along with several of the ladies of her Court. Inigo Jones, it appears, contributed to the splendour of these masques, embellishing them with every grace and propriety of scenic decoration; at all events, Mr. Gerard writes to Lord Strafford: "Such a splendid scene built over the altar at Somerset House, 'The Glory of Heaven.' Inigo Jones never presented a more curious piece in any of the masques at Whitehall."
Whitehall, indeed, was the scene of many gorgeous entertainments, but none, perhaps, of its shows was more attractive than the magnificent masque got up by the Inns of Court, as "a mark of love and duty to their majesties," just at the time when Prynne, the sedition-monger, had published one of his scurrilous works. We read that in February, 1634, this masque was brought to Whitehall by the loyal barristers, who, as we know and have already explained, were of old addicted to such shows. Henry Lawes undertook the music; Inigo Jones was machinist; and Selden's antiquarian lore was called into request, in order to ensure accuracy in the costumes. The masque itself, entitled The Triumph of Peace, was from the courtly pen of Shirley. "At length the great day arrived. From Ely House, on Holborn Hill, the procession set forth down Chancery Lane. A hundred gentlemen of the Inns of Court, all splendidly mounted, were followed by an anti-masque of grotesque figures; then came four chariots, carrying in as many companies the masquers from the four inns. On their arrival at Whitehall The Triumph of Peace was acted at the Banqueting House. It was a comic allegory of the social pleasures of peace, ending with a gorgeous tableau, in which the other deities appeared, all grouped round the peaceful goddess Irene." The performance itself, which cost about £21,000, caused a perfect furore, and is often mentioned by writers of the time. A fortnight later Carew's masque, The British Heaven, was acted on the same boards at Whitehall—Lawes and Inigo Jones helping as before—by Charles I. himself, assisted by a dozen or so of his courtiers. In fact, the masque—as an intermediate step between the pastoral idyll, which is purely ideal, and the reality of the drama proper—at this time had become the favourite form which "private theatricals" assumed in the time of our last Tudor and our first Stuart sovereigns, and its home was the Palace of White hall. The masque, as such, is styled by pleasant and witty Leigh Hunt "the only glory of King James' reign, and the greatest glory of Whitehall."
In the palace was a private theatre, with a little stage, the contrivance of Inigo Jones, whom Ephraim Hardcastle, in the Somerset House Gazette, does not hesitate to call "the father of scene-painting in England." Elegant masques were performed here by "his Majesty's servants," in the reign of James I. "These pieces," says Horace Walpole, "were sometimes composed at the command of the king in compliment to the nuptials of certain lords and ladies of the Court;" and he grows positively eloquent in their praise, as a "custom productive of much good, by encouraging marriage among the young nobility." Ben Jonson was the poet, Inigo Jones the inventor of the decorations, Laniere and Ferrabosco composed the symphonies, and the king, queen, and young nobility danced in the interludes. To such an extent was the splendour of these "shows" celebrated at the rival court of the Tuilleries and Versailles that the same author asserts that they formed the model which was followed in the celebrated fêtes of Louis le Grand.
One of the officers of the Court was the "Master of the Revels," whose office was created in 1546, by Henry VIII.—a fitting compliment to the theory—we can hardly say the fiction—which made the stageplayers of the date "his Majesty's servants." Mr. Frost, in his "Old Showmen of London," tells us that all the professors of the various arts of popular entertainment had to pay an annual licence duty to the Master of the Revels, whose jurisdiction extended over all wandering minstrels, and every one who blew a trumpet publicly, except (strangely enough) "the King's Players." The seal of his office, used under five sovereigns in succession, engraved on wood, was formerly in the possession of the late Mr. Francis Douce, by whose permission it was engraved for Smith's "Ancient Topography of London," where it may be seen. The legend round it was "Sigill: Offic: Jocor: Mascar: et: Revell: Dni: Regis.
From the same authority (Frost's "Old Showmen of London") we learn that the office of Master of the Revels, which had been held by Thomas Killigrew, the Court jester, was conferred, at his death, on his son Charles. Concerning this son the London Gazette of 1682 has the following advertisement:—"Whereas, Mr. John Clarke, of London, bookseller, did rent of Charles Killigrew, Esq., the licensing of all ballad-singers for five years, which time is expired at Lady-day next; these are therefore to give notice to all ballad-singers that take out licenses at the Office of the Revels, at Whitehall, for singing and selling of ballads and small books, according to ancient custom. And all persons concerned are hereby desired to take notice of and to suppress all mountebanks, rope-dancers, prize-players, ballad-singers, and such as make show of motions and strange sights, that have not a license in red and black letters, under the hand and seal of the said Charles Killigrew, Esq., Master of the Revels to His Majesty."
"The Tilt-yard adjoining the Palace," says Pennant, "was the delight of Queen Elizabeth, who was remarkable not only for the strength of her common sense and the violence of her disposition, but for her absurd and romantic vanity." Here, in her sixty-sixth year, "with wrinkled face, red periwig, little eyes, hooked nose, skinny lips, and black teeth," to use the phrase of Hentzner in his "Travels," she could drink in the flatteries of her favourite courtiers. Essex, by the lips of his "squire," here told her of her beauty and her worth; and a Dutch ambassador here assured her Majesty that he had undertaken the voyage to see her Majesty, who for beauty and wisdom excelled all the other beauties in the world!
In the collection of letters made by the late Mr. E. Lodge is one from Mr. Brackenbury to Lord Talbot, in which occurs the following passage, illustrative of Queen Elizabeth's love of her Tiltyard:—"These sports were great, and done in costly sort, to Her Majesty's great lykinge … The nineteenth day, being St. Elizabeth's Day, the Erle of Cumberland, the Erle of Essex, and my Lord Burley dyd chaleng all comers, six courses apeace, which was very honourablye performed." The walls of the palace, however, if they had tongues, could tell some amusing stories of Elizabeth's passions and "tantarums;" for instance, in the same collection we read, in a letter from John Stanhope to Lord Talbot, "Thys night, God wylling, she [the queen] will go to Richmond, and on Saturday next to Somersett House; and yf she could overcome her passyon agst. my Lo. of Essex for his maryage no doubt she would be much the quyëter; yett she doth use ytt more temperately than was thought for, and (God be thanked) she doth not strike all she thretes." Clearly she was a "hard hitter" when the Tudor blood within her was fairly roused.
The following account of the process of "serving up the queen's dinner" we take from Hentzner's "Travels in England," published in the reign of Elizabeth:—
"While the Queen was at prayers in the antechapel, a gentleman entered the room, having a rod, and along with him another who had a tablecloth, which, after they had both knelt three times with the utmost veneration, he spread upon the table, and after kneeling again, they both retired. Then came two others, one with the rod again, the other with a salt-seller, a plate, and bread: when they had knelt as the others had done, and placed what was brought upon the table, they also retired, with the same ceremonies performed by the first. At last came an unmarried lady ('we,' says Hentzner, 'were told she was a countess'), and along with her a married one, bearing a tastingknife; the former was dressed in white silk, who, when she had prostrated herself three times in the most graceful manner, approached the table, and rubbed the plates with bread and salt, with as much awe as if the Queen had been present. When they had waited there a little while, the yeomen of the guard entered, bare-headed, clothed in scarlet, with a golden rose upon their backs, bringing in at each turn a course of twenty-four dishes, served in plate, most of it gilt; these dishes were received by a gentleman in the same order they were brought, and placed upon the table, while the lady taster gave to each of the guard a mouthful to eat of the particular dish he had brought, for fear of any poison. During the time that this guard (which consists of the tallest and stoutest men that can be found in all England, being carefully selected for this purpose) were bringing dinner, twelve trumpets and two kettledrums made the hall ring for half an hour together. At the end of all this ceremonial, a number of unmarried ladies appeared, who, with particular solemnity, lifted the meat off the table, and conveyed it into the Queen's inner and more private chamber, where, after she had chosen for herself, the rest went to the ladies of the Court. The Queen dined and supped alone, with very few attendants, and it was very seldom that anybody, native or foreigner, was admitted at that time, and then only at the intercession of somebody in power."
Bishop Goodman, in his MSS. "Memoirs of the Court of James I.," in the Bodleian Library at Oxford, tells us that it was Queen Elizabeth's constant custom, even to a late period of her reign, "a little before her coronation day," to come from Richmond to London, and to dine with the Lord Admiral (the Earl of Effingham), at his house at Chelsea, and then to set out from Chelsea, when it was "dark night," for Whitehall, where the Lord Mayor and aldermen met her. "All the way long from Chelsea to Whitehall," he adds, "was full of people to see her." The vain and silly queen appears to have liked to make these entries into London by night, because the torchlight did not reveal her wrinkles so much as the day. "In her yearly journeys," writes the bishop, "at her coming to London, you must understand that she did desire to be seen and to be magnified; but in her old age she had not only great wrinkles, but she had a goggle throat, with a great gullet hanging out, as her grandfather, Henry VII., is painted withal."
From and after the reign of Elizabeth the Court no longer oscillated between Greenwich, the Tower, and Westminster, moving about the goods and chattels of the Crown as occasion served. Though the Tower was still theoretically the seat of all the great attributes of royalty, and was sometimes occupied by the sovereign upon occasions of extraordinary solemnity, yet, from this time forth, Whitehall became the settled and fixed centre of courtly splendour and magnificence, so as soon to form a history of its own.
Lord Orrery, in a letter addressed to Dr. Birch, in November, 1741, observes, "I look upon anecdotes as debts due to the public, and which every man, when he has that kind of cash by him, ought to pay." It is with a strong feeling of the truth of this remark that we here introduce one or two anecdotes concerning the former occupants of Whitehall.
It is on record that in 1608, when Christian IV. of Denmark, brother of the queen of James I., came to London to visit his brother-in-law, both kings got drunk together, in order to celebrate their happy meeting. An account of their shameful debauch on this occasion, which may well make us blush for royalty, will be found in Mr. John Timbs's "Romance of London;" but, in mercy to the memory of James, we will not repeat its details here.
It was here that Lord Monteagle communicated to James I.'s ministers the singular letter which was the cause of the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot, and Guy Fawkes was examined in the king's bed-chamber.
John Evelyn describes the interior of the King's Library here with great minuteness:—"Sept. 2, 1680.—I had an opportunity, his Majesty being at Windsor, of seeing his private library at Whitehall at my full ease. I went with the expectation of finding some curiosities, but though there are about a thousand volumes, there were few of importance that I had not perused before. They consisted chiefly of such works as had been dedicated or presented to him, a few histories, some travels and French books, abundance of mapps and sea-chartes, entertainments, and pomps, buildings and pieces relating to the navy, and some mathematical instruments; but what was most rare were three or four Romish Breviaries, with a good deal of miniature and monkish painting and gilding, one of which is most excellently done, both as to the figures, grotesques, and compartments, to the utmost of that curious art. There is another, in which I find written by the hand of King Henry VII. his giving it to his deare daughter Margaret (afterwards Queen of Scots), in which he desires her to pray for his soule, subscribing his name at length. There is also the processe of the philosopher's great Elixir, represented in divers pieces of excellent miniature; but the discourse is in High Dutch, a MS. There is also another MS., in 4to, of above 300 yeares old, in French, being an 'Institution of Physicke,' and in the botanical parts the plants are curiously painted in miniature; also a folio MS. of good thicknesse, being the severall exercises, as Theames (sic), Orations, Translations, &c., of King Edward VI., all written and subscribed with his own hand very legible, and divers of the Greeke interleaved and corrected after the manner of schoolboys' exercises, and that exceedingly well and proper, and with some Epistles to his preceptor, which show'd that young prince to have been extraordinarily advanc'd in learning, and as Cardan (who had been in England) affirmed, stupendiously knowing for his age. There is likewise his Journal, no lesse testifying his early ripeness and care about affaires of state." A great part of this library, there is reason to fear, perished in the fire which destroyed the palace, as will be related in a following chapter.
Here George Villiers, afterwards Duke of Buckingham, came, when quite a young man, in the reign of James I., "to make his fortune at Court;" to which, it would seem, he brought nothing, if we may judge by what Lord Clarendon tells us, but good looks and personal graces. "He came to Whitehall," says his biographer, "in a reign when the Scots were as numerous there as the English," and was fortunate in finding a friend in Sir John Graham, who presented him to the king, in the hopes of so cutting out the other royal favourite, Somerset. In this he was successful, and young Villiers was made cupbearer to the king, and received the honour of knighthood "in the Queen's bed-chamber at Whitehall, with the Prince's rapier, and sworn one of the Gentlemen of His Majesty's Bedchamber." He next was promoted to the Mastership of the Horse, and other honours soon followed. Henceforth Villiers becomes the silly and pedantic king's "dear child and gossip, Steenie," and his Court history is interwoven with that of the walls of old Whitehall. The duke, it may be added, lived in greater pomp than any nobleman of his time, having six horses to his carriage, which, from its singularity, made him the stare of the people, as did also his being carried about in a chair on men's shoulders; the noise and exclamations against it were so great that the people would openly upbraid him in the streets, as the means of bringing men to so servile a condition as horses; but in a short time chairs became common, and the carrying of them was looked upon as a profitable employment—so various and fickle are the fancies of the time! In dress he was extravagant beyond precedent, for in a MS. in the Harleian library, quoted in Mr. Oldy's "Life of Raleigh," it says:—"It was common with him at any ordinary dancing to have his cloaths trimmed with great diamond buttons, and to have diamond hatbands, cockades, and earrings, to be yoked with great and manifold knots of pearl—in short, to be manacled, fettered, and imprisoned in jewels, insomuch that at his going over to Paris, in 1625, he had twenty-seven suits of cloaths made, the richest that embroidery, lace, silk, velvet, gold, and gems could contribute; one of which was a white uncut velvet, set all over, both suit and cloak, with diamonds, valued at fourscore thousand pounds, besides a great feather stuck all over with diamonds; as were also his sword, girdle, hatband, and spurs." His entertainments to the king were also of the most sumptuous order; in them the good, easy James would take rather more than prudence dictated; for he was one of those who "never mixed water with his wine." When we mention Villiers travelling with six horses, we may as well add here that the "proud" Earl of Northumberland, Henry Percy, on his release from the Tower, where he had been confined after the conspiracy of Guido Fawkes, on hearing that Buckingham drove his coach and six—then a great novelty—thought that if the king's favourite used six horses, ordered eight to be put before his own, and drove these along the Strand to Westminster, passing, of course, along the front of Whitehall.
WHITEHALL AND ITS HISTORICAL ASSOCIATIONS (continued).
"Parte aliâ lautas ædes, magna atria regum
Charles I. and the Parliament—Cromwell and the Commonwealth—The King brought to Trial—Execution of Charles I.—The Site of the Execution—Andrew Marvell's Lines on the Occasion—Who was the Executioner of Charles I.?—The Actual Scene of the Execution—Pennant's Opinion—The King's Bearing—A Singular Coincidence—Who struck the Fatal Blow?—Varying Statements upon this Point.
When the Banqueting House of Whitehall was first erected, it was little thought that James was constructing a passage from it for his son and successor, Charles I., to the scaffold. It would be unpardonable to pass over an event of this magnitude slightly, especially at a time like the present, when so much is said and written on the subject of monarchical government and republicanism. Rapin has impartially laid down what has been said for and against the proceedings of the Parliament in their quarrel with Charles I., which led to the establishment of the Commonwealth. Mr. Nightingale, in "The Beauties of England and Wales," describes the matter as follows, from a more partial point of view:—"The unfortunate monarch was evidently the prey of two contending parties: the Independents, whose descendants still survive in the various sects now called Calvinistic Methodists; and the Presbyterians, who are now risen or degenerated into the sects of Unitarians, Arians, and General Baptists. The first of these parties was bent on the king's destruction; the latter wished to save him, and eventually brought about the restoration of Charles II., though they could not succeed in saving the life of his father. The rebellious army had the support of the Independents; but it should not therefore be concluded that the king had the cordial support of the Presbyterians, whom nothing would satisfy but the abolition of the episcopacy, though they do not seem to have wished this at the expense of their monarch's life."
On the 28th of April, 1648, the House of Commons voted:—"1. That the government of the kingdom should be still by the King, Lords, and Commons. 2. That the groundwork for this government should be the propositions last presented to the king at Hampton Court. 3. That any member of the House should have leave to speak freely to any votes, ordinances, or declarations concerning the king, &c."
These votes did not at all accord with the designs of the Independents, who meant to abolish all kingly authority, and establish a Commonwealth; and who, although weak in the House, but strong in the field, contrived to prevent a reconciliation or treaty with the king till Cromwell should be sufficiently strong to allow them to act with the necessary vigour against their enemies—the Scots, the Royalists, and the Presbyterians. In the meanwhile Cromwell gained strength, and the Independents at length openly demanded "that the king be brought to justice, as the capital cause of all the evils in the kingdom, and of so much blood being shed." Every day gave new force to their designs, and new strength to their vengeance. They had possession of the king's person, and removed him, contrary to the instructions of the Parliament, to Hurst Castle, in Hampshire.
On the 19th of January, 1648–9, the king, who had in the meantime been removed from Hurst Castle to Windsor, was brought to St. James's. His trial was quickly hurried on, and on the 27th of January sentence of death was passed upon him. His Majesty was taken back to St. James's Palace, and the sentence was carried into effect three days afterwards upon a scaffold erected in front of the Banqueting House of Whitehall. Mr. J. H. Jesse thus minutely describes the last sad scene:—
"Colonel Hacker having knocked at his door and informed him that it was time to depart, Charles took Bishop Juxon by the hand, and bidding his faithful attendant Herbert to bring with him his silver clock, intimated to Hacker, with a cheerful countenance, that he was ready to accompany him. As he passed through the Palace Garden into the Park, he inquired of Herbert the hour of the day, bidding him at the same time keep the clock for his sake. The procession was a remarkable one. On each side of the king marched a line of soldiers, while before him and behind him were a guard of halberdiers, their drums beating and colours flying. On his right hand was Bishop Juxon, and on his left hand Colonel Tomlinson, both bareheaded. There is a tradition that during his walk he pointed out a tree, not far from the entrance to Spring Gardens, which he said had been planted by his brother Henry. He was subjected to more than one annoyance during his progress. On reaching the spot where the Horse Guards now stand, Charles ascended a staircase which then communicated with Whitehall Palace, and passing along the famous gallery which at that time ran across the street, was conducted to his usual bedchamber, where he remained till summoned by Hacker to the scaffold."
"This day," according to a contemporary MS., "his Majesty died upon a scaffold at Whitehall. His children were with him last night. To the Duke of Gloucester he gave his 'George;' to the Lady Elizabeth his ring off his finger. He told them his subjects had many things to give their children, but that was all he had to give them. This day, about one o'clock, he came from St. James's in a long black cloak and grey stockings. The Palsgrave came through the Park with him. He was faint, and was forced to sit down and rest in the Park. He went into Whitehall the usual way out of the Park, and so came out of the Banqueting House upon planks, made purposely to the scaffold. He was not long there, and what he spoke was to the two bishops, Dr. Juxon and Dr. Morton. To Dr. Juxon he gave his hat and cloak. He prayed with them, walked twice or thrice about the scaffold, and held out his hands to the people. His last words, as I am informed, were, 'To your power I must submit, but your authority I deny.' He pulled his doublet off, and kneeled down to the block himself. When some officer offered to unbutton him, or some such like thing, he thrust him from him. Two men, in vizards and false hair, were appointed to be his executioners. Who they were is not known. Some say he that did it was the common hangman; others, that it was one Captain Foxley, and that the hangman refused. The Bishop of London had been constantly with him since sentence was given. Since he died they have made proclamation that no man, upon pain of I know not what, shall presume to proclaim his son Prince Charles as King; and this is all I have yet heard of this sad day's work."
It has often been denied that the front of Whitehall was the actual scene of the execution of King Charles I. But the fact that the sad scene was witnessed by Archbishop Usher from the roof of Wallingford House, which stood on the spot now occupied by the Admiralty, establishes the precise locality. "The Archbishop," says his biographer, "lived at my Lady Peterborough's house, near Charing Cross; and on the day that King Charles was put to death he got upon the leads, at the desire of some of his friends, to see his beloved sovereign for the last time. When he came upon the leads the King was in his speech; he stood motionless for some time, and sighed, and then, lifting up his tears to heaven, seemed to pray very earnestly. But when his Majesty had done speaking, and had pulled off his cloak and doublet, and stood stripped in his waistcoat, and that the villains in vizards began to put up his hair, the good Bishop, no longer able to endure so horrible a sight, grew pale and began to faint; so that if he had not been observed by his own servant and others that stood near him, he had fainted away. So they presently carried him down and laid him upon his bed." The warrant for the execution, too, expressly commanded that the bloody deed should take place "in the open street before Whitehall." Mr. J. W. Croker denied that this was the actual scene, on the ground that "the street in front of the Banqueting House did not then exist." The contemporary prints, however, show that Croker was in error in this assertion, for the high road from Charing Cross to Westminster ran then, as now, under the very windows of the Banqueting Hall. Mr. J. H. Jesse confirms, by the evidence of his own eyes, the assertion of George Herbert (who attended the king to the last), that "a passage was broken through the wall by which the king passed unto the scaffold." He writes:—
"Having curiosity enough to visit the interior of the building, the walls of which were then [at the renovation of the Banqueting House] laid bare, a space was pointed out to the writer between the upper and lower centre windows, of about seven feet in height and four in breadth, the bricks of which presented a broken and jagged appearance, and the brickwork introduced was evidently of a different date from that of the rest of the building. There can be little doubt that it was through this passage that Charles walked to the fatal stage."
Pennant confirms the circumstantial account given above, stating that the passage broken in the wall in order to make a passage for Charles to the scaffold still remained when he wrote, forming the door to a small additional building of later date.
It is on record, and attested on all hands, that
the king walked to the scaffold with a cheerful
countenance and a firm and undaunted step, as one
whose conscience told him that he died in a good
cause and with a good conscience. Thus it comes
to pass that one who certainly was no partisan of
Charles I., or an advocate of the "divine right of
kings," Andrew Marvell, penned such lines as these:
"While round the armèd bands
Did clasp their bloody hands,
He nothing common did, or mean,
Upon that memorable scene,
Nor called the gods, with vulgar spite,
To vindicate his hopeless right;
But with his keener eye
The axe's edge did try;
Then bowed his kingly head
Down, as upon a bed."
In a rare book, called "Gleanings," by R. Groves, published in 1651, we find noticed the following coincidence, which is certainly singular, if true:—"King Charles was beheaded in that very place where the first blood was shed in the beginning of our late troubles; for a company of the citizens returning from Westminster, where they had been petitioning quietly for justice, were set upon by some of the Court as they passed Whitehall: in the which tumult divers were hurt and one or more were slain just by the Banqueting House, in the place where stood the scaffold on which he suffered. 'Tis further remarkable," adds the writer, "that he should end his days in a tragedie at the Banqueting House, where he had seene and caused many a comedy to be acted on the Lord's Day."
"By a signal providence," says Wheatley, "the bloody rebels chose that day for murdering their king on which the history of our Saviour's sufferings (Matt. xxvii.) was appointed to be read as a lesson. The blessed martyr had forgot that it came in the ordinary course; and therefore, when Bishop Juxon (who read the morning office immediately before his martyrdom) named this chapter, the good prince asked him if he had singled it out as fit for the occasion: and when he was informed it was the lesson for the day, could not without a simple complacency and joy admire how suitably it concurred with his circumstances."
Whilst holding that the execution of the king
was a murder and a sin, we cannot go so far with
the Royalists as to endorse the exaggerated sentiments of the following epitaph, which we find in the
"Eikon Basilike," published in 1648, when the irritation against the regicides was at its highest pitch:—
"So falls the stately cedar; while it stood,
That was the onely glory of the wood;
Great Charles, thou earthly god, celestial man,
Whose life, like others, though it were a span,
Yet in that span was comprehended more
Than earth hath waters, or the ocean shore;
Thy heavenly virtues angels should rehearse,
It is a theam too high for humane verse.
Hee that would know thee right, then let him look
Upon thy rare-incomparable book,
And read it or'e and or'e, which if he do,
Hee'll find thee king, and priest, and prophet too,
And sadly see our losse, and though in vain,
With fruitlesse wishes, call thee back again.
Nor shall oblivion sit upon thy herse,
Though there were neither monument nor verse.
Thy suff'rings and thy death let no man name;
It was thy glorie, but the kingdom's shame."
A question has often been asked, who was the executioner of Charles I.? We do not mean, who were the men at whose bidding the deed was done?—for their names have come down to posterity with lasting dishonour as "the regicides"—but, whose hand actually dealt the blow? There are undoubtedly very strong reasons for believing that it was Richard Brandon, a resident in Rosemary Lane, the entry of whose death occurs in the register of St. Mary's, Whitechapel, under date June 21st, 1649. (fn. 1) To the entry is appended a note, evidently of about the same date, to the effect that "this R. Brandon is supposed to have cut off the head of Charles the First." This man is said to have been the son of Gregory Brandon, who beheaded Lord Strafford, and may therefore be said to have claimed the gallows as his inheritance. Besides, in the "Confessions of Richard Brandon, the Hangman" (1649), we meet with the following passage:—"He [Brandon] likewise confessed that he had thirty pounds for his pains, all paid him in half-crowns within an hour after the blow was given, and that he had an orange stuck full of cloves and a handkercher out of the king's pocket, so soon as he was carried from the scaffold, for which orange he was proffered twenty shillings by a gentleman in Whitehall, but refused the same, and afterwards sold it for ten shillings in Rosemary Lane." If this indeed be true, it is satisfactory to know that the man who struck the cruel and fatal blow did not long survive the deed. He was buried in Whitechapel churchyard; and it was with great difficulty that his interment was effected, so strong was the popular loathing against him. Various authorities, however, at different times, have charged with the deed Dun (styled in one of Butler's poems "Squire Dun"), Gregory Brandon, William Walker, Richard Brandon, Hugh Peters, Colonel Joyce, William Hewlett, and lastly, Lord Stair. Against some of these the accusation is utterly groundless. According to Sir Nathaniel Wraxall, George Selwyn, "that insatiable amateur of executions," told the story of King Charles's execution from information which he professed to have obtained from the Duchess of Portsmouth, who, he said, "always asserted, on the authority of Charles the Second, that the king, his father, was not beheaded by either Colonel Joyce or Colonel Pride, as was then commonly believed; but that the real name of the executioner was Gregory Brandon; that this man had worn a black crape stretched over his face, and had no sooner taken off the king's head than he was put into a boat at Whitehall Stairs, together with the block, the black cloth that covered it, the axe, and every other article that had been stained with the royal blood. Being conveyed to the Tower, all the implements used in the decapitation had been immediately reduced to ashes. A purse containing one hundred broad pieces of gold was then delivered to Brandon, and he was dismissed. He survived the transaction many years, but divulged it a short time before he died. This account," Wraxall adds, "as coming from the Duchess of Portsmouth, challenges great respect."
By Lilly's Life it would appear that the man who acted as the executioner of Charles I. was Lieut.-Colonel Joyce; but whether it was Joyce's or Brandon's hand that shed the king's blood, it is a satisfaction to let their names go down together to posterity in these columns stamped with the infamy and disgrace of regicides—Arcades ambo.
WHITEHALL AND ITS HISTORICAL ASSOCIATIONS (continued).
"Lucent genialibus altis
Aurea fulcra toris, epulæque ante ora paratæ
Regifico luxo."—Virg. "Æn." vi.
A Singular Prophecy—The Ill-fated Bust of Charles I.—Charles I. as a Patron of the Fine Arts—Relics of the "Martyr King"—"Touching" for the King's Evil—Anecdote of "Archy," the King's Jester, and Archbishop Laud—The Restoration of Charles II.—Charles II. and Lady Castlemaine—Loose Life of the Court—Catharine of Braganza—Dr. South and Lord Lauderdale—Visits of John Evelyn to Whitehall—Sir William Penn—The Duke of Monmouth—The Last Hours and Death of Charles II.—The Last of the Stuarts—Whitehall as the Focus of Political Intrigue, and the Chief Staple of News—Serious Conflagrations at Whitehall.
Many are the tales and anecdotes to which the life and death of King Charles gave rise, but among them, perhaps, few are more singular than the subjoined "prophecy," referred to by Howell in a letter to Sir Edward Spencer, dated February 20th, 1647–8:—"Surely the witch of Endor is no fable; the burning Joan of Arc at Rouen, and the Marchioness d'Ancre, of late years, in Paris, are no fables: the execution of Nostradamus for a kind of witch, some fourscore years since, who, among other things, foretold that the 'Senate of London will kill their King.'"
Mr. Timbs, in his "Romance of London," relates a strange story of the ill-fated bust of Charles I. carved by Bernini, on the authority of a pamphlet on the character of Charles I., by Zachary Grey, LL.D.:—"Vandyke having drawn the king in three different faces—a profile, three-quarters, and a full face—the picture was sent to Rome for Bernini to make a bust from it. He was unaccountably dilatory in the work; and upon this being complained of, he said that he had set about it several times, but there was something so unfortunate in the features of the face that he was shocked every time he examined it, and forced to leave off the work; and if there was any stress to be laid on physiognomy, he was sure the person whom the picture represented was destined to a violent end. The bust was at last finished, and sent to England. As soon as the ship that brought it arrived in the river, the king, who was very impatient to see the bust, ordered it to be carried immediately to Chelsea. It was conveyed thither, and placed upon a table in the garden, whither the king went with a train of nobility to inspect the bust. As they were viewing it, a hawk flew over their heads with a partridge in its claws which he had wounded to death. Some of the partridge's blood fell upon the neck of the bust, where it remained without being wiped off. This bust was placed over the door of the king's closet at Whitehall, and continued there until the palace was destroyed by fire."
It is generally stated that Charles I. showed himself a most liberal patron of the arts. That this may have been true to some extent, cannot be doubted; but it may be desirable here to record the fact that in the State Paper Office there is, or was some years ago, a long bill sent in by Vandyke, for work done, and docketed by the king's own hand. The picture of his Majesty dressed for the chase, for which Vandyke charged £200, is assessed by the King at £100 instead, and in many other instances there is even a greater reduction made. Other pictures the King marked with a cross, which is explained by a note at the back by Endymion Porter, to the effect that as they were to be paid for by the Queen, his Majesty had left them for his wife to reduce at her own pleasure.
It may be added that, in spite of having done so much work for royalty, Vandyke died poor, and that his daughter was allowed a small pension—which, by the way, was most irregularly paid—on account of sums owing to her father's estate by Charles I. We are accustomed to rank Charles II. with bad paymasters, but it is to be feared that his father obtained his reputation as an art patron at much too cheap a rate.
It is also stated that King Charles I. possessed numerous portraits, drawn by Holbein, of several personages of the Court of Henry VIII., from the highest down to Mrs. Jack or Jackson, the nurse of King Edward VI. These drawings, it is said, the King exchanged for a single picture; but how they came back into the possession of the Crown is not clear. Mr. J. T. Smith, in his "Book for a Rainy Day," says that they were discovered at Kensington Palace, and taken from their frames and bound in two volumes. It would be interesting to know whether they are still in existence.
A vignette of the Bible used by King Charles I. upon the scaffold, and presented by him to Dr. Juxon, the Bishop of London, who attended him in his last moments, will be found in Smith's "Historical and Literary Curiosities."
The shirt, stained on the wrist with some drops of blood, in which Charles I. was beheaded, also his watch, which he gave at the place of execution to Mr. John Ashburnham, his white silk drawers, and the sheet that was thrown over his body, were long preserved in the vestry of Ashburnham Church, in Sussex, having been, as the "Beauties of England and Wales" informs us, "bequeathed, in 1743, by Bertram Ashburnham, Esq., to the clerk of the parish and his successors for ever, to be exhibited as curiosities." These relics of the "martyr king," we may add, have somehow found their way back into the hands of the Ashburnham family, and are now very carefully preserved at Ashburnham Place, the seat of the earls of that name. This mansion was built by John Ashburnham, who was "page of the bed-chamber" to both Charles I. and Charles II., and who died in 1671. He attended his sovereign to the last, till he fell on the scaffold, and thus obtained possession of the articles worn by the king on that mournful occasion. Horsfield tells us that "the superstitious of the last, and even of the present age, have occasionally resorted to these relics for the cure of the king's evil."
With reference to the supposed efficacy of the touch of royalty in curing diseases, we may state that, under the Stuarts, there might be seen in the gazettes occasional advertisements announcing when and where a gracious king would next cure his subjects of scrofula by a touch of his royal finger. As may readily be supposed, the Palace at Whitehall was the place most frequently chosen for the "touching" or the "healing." Here is one of the notices issued by command of Charles I.:—"Whitehall, May 16, 1644.—His Sacred Majesty having declared it to be his Royal will and purpose to continue the healing of his people for the Evil during the month of May, and then to give over till Michaelmas next, I am commanded to give notice thereof, that the people may not come up to town in the interim, and lose their labour."
Charles II. is said to have "touched" 92,000 people for the king's evil—about twenty a day for his whole reign. The practice was continued by James II., for Evelyn, in his "Diary," under date of 1687, writes, "I saw his Majesty touch for the evil." The word "touching" gives us a most inadequate idea of the deliberate solemnity of this ceremonial in the days of the Stuarts. Imagine the king seated in a chair of state upon his throne, under a rich canopy, in a spacious hall of the palace. Each surgeon led his patients in turn to the foot of the throne, where they knelt, and while a chaplain in full canonicals intoned the words, "He put His hands upon them and healed them," the king stroked their faces with both hands at once. When all had been thus "touched," they came up to the throne again in the same order, and the king hung about the neck of each, by a blue ribbon, a golden coin, while the chaplain chanted, "This is the true Light who came into the world." And the whole concluded with the reading of the epistle for the day and prayers for the sick.
The following description of the process of "touching" for the king's evil we take from Oudert's MS. Diary:—"A young gentlewoman, Elizabeth Stephens, of the age of sixteen, came to the Presence Chamber in 1640, to be 'touched for the Evil,' with which she was so afflicted that, by her own and her mother's testimony, she had not seen with her left eye for above a month. After prayers read by Dr. Sanderson, she knelt down to be 'touched,' with the rest, by the King. His Majesty then touched her in the usual manner, and put a ribbon with a piece of money hanging to it about her neck. Which done, his Majesty turned to the Duke of Richmond, the Earl of Southampton, and the Earl of Lindsey, to discourse with them. And the young gentlewoman said of her own accord, openly, 'Now, God be praised, I can see of this sore eye,' and afterwards declared that she did see more and more by it, and could by degrees endure the light of the candle." The Bourbon kings of France were supposed to possess a like power of healing, in virtue of their descent from St. Louis. On the day after their coronation at Rheims they went in procession to the Abbey of St. Rémy, in that city, in the garden of which convent they touched all those afflicted with the evil that were brought to them, making the sign of the cross with their fingers on the forehead of the sick person, saying, "Le Roi vous touche; Dieu vous guerison."
The form of prayer for the healing, we may add, is still to be seen in old Prayer-books, bound up with the rest of the occasional services. It was not dropped out till the reign of George I.
A capital story is told about "Archy," the king's fool, and Archbishop Laud, in connection with the Court of Whitehall. It is thus told in "The Book of Table Talk," published by Charles Knight:—"When news arrived from Scotland of the bad reception which the king's proclamation respecting the Book of Common Prayer had met with there, Archibald, the king's fool, happening to meet the Archbishop of Canterbury, who was going to the council-table, said to his grace, 'Wha's feule now? doth not your grace hear the news from Striveling about the Liturgy?" But the poor jester soon learned that Laud was not a person whom even his jester's coat and privileged folly permitted him to tamper with. The primate immediately laid his complaint before the Council. How far it was attended to, the following order of Council, issued the very day on which the offence was committed, will show:—'At Whitehall, the 11th of March, 1637. It is this day ordered by his Majesty, with the advice of the Board, that Archibald Armstrong, the King's Fool, for certain scandalous words of a high nature spoken by him against the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury his Grace, and proved to be uttered by him by two witnesses, shall have his coat pulled over his head and be discharged of the King's service and banished the Court; for which the Lord Chamberlain of the King's household is prayed and required to give order to be executed.' And immediately the same was put into execution." Thus was poor Archy degraded and dismissed from his Majesty's service. "What was this," asks Leigh Hunt, "but to say that the fool was fool no longer? 'Write me down an ass,' says 'Dogberry,' in the comedy. 'Write down that Archy is no fool,' says King Charles in Council. 'He has called the Archbishop one; and therefore we are all agreed, his Grace included, that the man has proved himself to be no longer entitled to the appellation.'" Archy, it appears, had on a previous occasion, when called upon to say grace before meat, incurred the displeasure of Archbishop Laud, by saying, "Great laud to the king, and little Laud to the devil."
In a pamphlet printed in 1641, entitled "Archy's Dream: sometime Jester to His Majestie, but exiled the Court by Canterburie's malice, with a relation for whom an odde chair stood void in hell," the following reason is given for Archy's banishment from Court:—A certain nobleman asking him what he would do with his handsome daughters, he replied that he knew very well what to do with them, but he had sons whom he knew not what to do with; he would gladly make scholars of them, but that he feared the archbishop would cut off their ears.
In the "Strafford Letters" will be found, as Mr. Jesse reminds us in his work on "London," several interesting notices of Archbishop Laud passing between his palace at Lambeth and the royal palace at Whitehall. For example, in one of his letters to the earl, alluding to his health as not so good as it was formerly, he expresses a regret that "in consequence of his elevation to the see of Canterbury he has now simply to glide across the river in his barge, when on his way either to the Court or the Star Chamber; whereas, when Bishop of London, there were five miles of rough road between Fulham Palace and Whitehall, the jolting over which in his coach he describes as having been very beneficial to his health."
On his restoration, May 29th, 1660, King Charles II. was brought back hither "in military fashion" through London, by way of the Strand, "all the streetes and windows even to Whitehall being replenished with innumerable people of all conditions." It must have been indeed a gay sight to have seen the king returning to the palace of his ancestors, and the demonstrations of joy on the occasion are described as having been extravagant in the extreme. Space will not permit us to enter into the details of the enthusiastic reception on the part of the Londoners, or of the seven hours' ride through the streets to Whitehall; all this will be found described with picturesque minuteness in the pages of Sir Edward Walker's "Manner of the Most Happy Return in England of our most gracious Sovereign Lord, King Charles the Second," and also at page 702 of Whitelock's "Memorials."
On the 23rd of August, 1662, the King and Queen came by water from Hampton Court, and landed at "Whitehall Bridge," as the Stairs were often called. On this occasion Pepys draws our attention to the presence of the celebrated Lady Castlemaine, and also of her husband. "But that which pleased me most was that my Lady Castlemaine stood over against us on a piece of Whitehall. But methought it was strange to see her lord and her upon the same place, walking up and down and taking no notice of each other; only at first entry he put off his hat, and she made him a very civil salute; but afterwards they took no notice one of another; but both of them now and then would take their child, which the nurse held in her arms, and dandle it."
Pepys tells us distinctly that the removal of Lord Clarendon from place and power was "certainly designed in my Lady Castlemaine's chamber," and he adds that he saw "several of the gallants of Whitehall" staying to see the Lord Chancellor pass by, and talking to her in her "birdcage."
The loose life led by the Court of Charles II. at Whitehall—or, indeed, wherever it may have been quartered—is a matter of historic notoriety. A good insight into these royal escapades is given by quaint old Pepys, who, writing in his "Diary" under date April 25th, 1663, says: "I did hear that the Queene is much grieved of late at the King's neglecting her, he not having supped with her once this quarter of a year, and almost every night with Lady Castlemaine, who hath been with him this St. George's Feast at Windsor." It is said by several retailers of Court gossip that the king spent in Lady Castlemaine's apartments the whole of the week previous to the arrival of his wife, Catherine of Braganza.
Here, probably, and not, as usually supposed, at the house of Sir Samuel Morland, at Vauxhall, Charles II. first spent his hours in dalliance with Barbara Palmer, afterwards Countess of Castlemaine and Duchess of Cleveland, of whom we shall have more to say anon, when we reach the neighbourhood of St. James's Palace. Her apartments, or lodgings, according to the privatelyprinted "Memoir" of the lady by Mr. G. S. Steinman, were on that part of Whitehall which bordered on the Holbein Gateway, on the south side of a detached pile of buildings leading to the Cock-pit, not far from the top of King Street.
Pepys, in his "Diary," notes the fact that on more than one Sunday he "observed how the Duke and Mrs. Palmer" (the subsequent Duchess) "did talk to one another very wantonly" in the chapel, during service-time, "through the hangings that part the king's closet and the closet where the ladies sit." Her presence here was indeed a standing insult to Charles's poor queen, Catharine of Braganza, to whom her ladyship must have caused many a heartfelt pang as a wife.
But if such was the case with Lady Castlemaine, it would seem, however, that the maids of honour and the other ladies of the Court of Whitehall were left very much to their own devices under the Stuart régime, and were not subject to any very strict control. "What mad freaks the mayds of honour at the Court do have!" writes Pepys in his "Diary." "That Mrs. Jennings, one of the Duchess's maids, the other day dressed herself up like an orange-wench, and went up and down and cried oranges, till, falling down by some accident, her fine shoes were discovered, and she put to a great deal of shame: so that such as these tricks and worse among them, thereby few will venture upon them for wives."
To the lax and immoral Court the Queen seems to have shown herself a marked exception. "To Whitehall," writes Pepys in his "Diary" in June, 1664, "where Mr. Pearce showed me the Queene's bed-chamber and her closet, where she had nothing but some pretty pious pictures, and books of devotion; and her holy water at her head as she sleeps; with a clock at her bedside, wherein burns a lamp that tells her the hour of the night at any time." Poor lonely Catherine of Braganza! it was probably at a very late hour of the night, or rather a very early hour of the morning, that the hands of her clock pointed to when Charles entered that room, after "supping with Lady Castlemaine" and other rivals of the Queen in his royal affections. No wonder that Charles did not find it compatible with his gallantries that his wife should be living at Whitehall, and, therefore, that he should have quietly disposed of her in lodgings at Somerset House, as we have seen in a previous chapter.
King Charles II., and his religious instructors, too, have been the theme of numerous bon mots. One of these has reference to Dr. South, who once, preaching before the king and his profligate Court at Whitehall, perceived in the middle of his sermon that sleep had taken possession of all his hearers. The doctor stopped, and changing his tone of voice, called three times to Lord Lauderdale, who, starting up, "My lord," said South, with great composure, "I am sorry to interrupt your repose, but I must beg you will not snore so loud, lest you awaken his Majesty."
In the year 1682 the Russian, Moroccan, and East Indian ambassadors all happened to be in London at the same time, and Evelyn, in his "Diary," gives us an amusing account of an evening which he spent in the company of those from Africa at the rooms of the Duchess of Portsmouth, in Whitehall.
It was at Whitehall, as Pepys tells us in his "Diary," that he found his friend Mr. Coventry chatting over a map of America with Sir William Penn.
In February, 1686, as he tells us in his "Diary," John Evelyn "came to lodge at Whitehall, in the Lord Privy Seal's lodgings."
Here James Walters, Duke of Monmouth, the natural son of Charles II., was allowed to assume the airs, and indeed all but the name, of royalty, and would stand with his hat on his head, as Macaulay remarks, when the Howards and the Seymours stood uncovered.
It was at the Court at Whitehall that Sidney, Lord Godolphin, the veteran statesman and courtier, was brought up as a page.
Having been the residence of so many of our English sovereigns in succession, the walls of Whitehall have witnessed many curious and interesting scenes, some also over which perhaps it would be well if a veil could be drawn. Foremost among such scenes may be reckoned the death of Charles II., the details of which, gathered from Evelyn, and Burnet, and some other sources, have been worked up by Macaulay into a most effective picture, which has also employed the pencil of at least one modern painter of eminence.
"The palace," writes Macaulay, "had seldom presented a gayer or more scandalous appearance than on the evening of Sunday, the 1st of February, 1685. Some grave persons, who had gone thither, after the fashion of that age, to pay their duty to their sovereign, and who had expected that on such a day his Court would wear a decent aspect, were struck with astonishment and horror. The great gallery of Whitehall, an admirable relic of the magnificence of the Tudors, was crowded with revellers and gamblers. The king sat there chatting and toying with three women, whose charms were the boast and whose vices were the disgrace of three nations. Barbara Palmer, Duchess of Cleveland, was there, no longer young, but still retaining some traces of that superb and voluptuous loveliness which twenty years before overcame the hearts of all men. There, too, was the Duchess of Portsmouth, whose soft and infantine features were lighted up with the vivacity of France. Hortensia Mancini, Duchess of Mazarin, and niece of the great Cardinal, completed the group. . . . . While Charles flirted with his three sultanas, Hortensia's French page, a handsome boy, whose vocal performances were the delight of Whitehall, and were rewarded by numerous presents of rich clothes, ponies, and guineas, warbled some amatory verses. A party of twenty courtiers were seated at cards round a large table, on which gold was heaped in mountains. In the midst of this scene the king complained that he felt unwell; he was carried off to his chamber in a swoon, but recovered a little on being bled, or 'blooded,' as the phrase then went. He was laid on his bed, where, during a short time, the Duchess of Portsmouth hung over him with the familiarity of a wife. But the alarm had been given. The Queen and the Duchess of York were hastening to the room. The favourite concubine was forced to retire to her own apartments. Those apartments had been thrice pulled down and thrice rebuilt by her lover, to gratify her caprice. The very furniture of the chimney was massy silver. Several fine paintings, which properly belonged to the Queen, had been transferred to the dwelling of the mistress. The sideboards were piled with richly-wrought plate. In the niches stood cabinets, the masterpieces of Japanese art. On the hangings, fresh from the looms of Paris, were depicted, in tints which no English tapestry could rival, birds of gorgeous plumage, landscapes, hunting-matches, the lordly terrace of Saint Germains, the statues and fountains of Versailles. In the midst of this splendour, purchased by guilt and shame, the unhappy woman gave herself up to an agony of grief which, to do her justice, was not wholly selfish.
"And now the gates of Whitehall, which ordinarily stood open to all comers, were closed; but persons whose faces were known were still permitted to enter. The ante-chambers and galleries were soon filled to overflowing, and even the sick room was crowded with peers, privy councillors, and foreign ministers; all the medical men of note in London were summoned. The Queen was for a time assiduous in her attendance. The Duke of York scarcely left his brother's bedside. The primate and four other bishops were then in London; they remained in London all day, and took it by turns to sit up at night in the king's room."
The services of the bishops, however, were not required. Macaulay remarks of the Duchess of Portsmouth that "a life of frivolity and vice had not extinguished in her all sentiments of religion, or all that kindness which is the glory of her sex." It was by her suggestion that a Roman Catholic priest, Father Huddleston, the same who had aided Charles in his escape after the battle of Worcester, was sent for, to offer the consolations of religion. The courtiers were all ordered to withdraw, except Duras, Lord Feversham, and Granville, Earl of Bath, both of whom were Protestants, and faithful friends. The rest shall be told in Macaulay's words:—"Even the physicians withdrew. The back door was then opened, and Father Huddleston entered. A cloak had been thrown over his sacred vestments, and his shaven crown was concealed by a flowing wig. 'Sir,' said the Duke [of York], 'this good man once saved your life. He now comes to save your soul.' Charles faintly answered, 'He is welcome.' Huddleston went through his part better than had been expected. He knelt by the bed, listened to the confession, pronounced the absolution, and administered extreme unction. He asked if the king wished to receive the Lord's Supper. 'Surely,' said Charles, 'if I am not unworthy.' The host was brought in. Charles feebly strove to rise and kneel before it. The priest bade him lie still, and assured him that God would accept the humiliation of his soul, and would not require the humiliation of his body. The king found so much difficulty in swallowing that it was necessary to open the door and procure a glass of water. This rite ended, the monk held up a crucifix before the penitent, charged him to fix his last thoughts on the sufferings of the Redeemer, and withdrew. The whole ceremony had occupied about three quarters of an hour, and during that time the courtiers who filled the outer room had communicated their suspicions to each other by whispers and significant glances. The door was at length thrown open, and the crowd again filled the chamber of death.
"It was now late in the evening. The king seemed much relieved by what had passed. His natural children were brought to his bedside, the Dukes of Grafton, Southampton, and Northumberland, sons of the Duchess of Cleveland; the Duke of St. Albans, son of Eleanor Gwynn; and the Duke of Richmond, son of the Duchess of Portsmouth. Charles blessed them all, but spoke with peculiar tenderness to Richmond. One face which should have been there was wanting. The eldest and beloved child was an exile and a wanderer; his name was not once mentioned by his father.
"During the night Charles earnestly recommended the Duchess of Portsmouth and her boy to the care of James. 'And do not,' he goodnaturedly added, 'let poor Nelly starve.' The Queen sent excuses for her absence by Halifax. She said that she was too much disordered to resume her post by the couch, and implored pardon for any offence she might unwittingly have given. 'She ask my pardon, poor woman!' cried Charles; 'I ask hers, with all my heart.'
"The morning light began to peep through the windows of Whitehall, and Charles desired the attendants to pull aside the curtains, that he might have one more look at the day. He remarked that it was time to wind up a clock which stood near his bed. These little circumstances were long remembered, because they proved beyond dispute that while he declared himself a Roman Catholic he was in full possession of his faculties. He apologised to those who had stood round him all night for the trouble which he had caused. He had been, he said, a most unconscionable time dying, but he hoped they would excuse it. This was the last glimpse of that exquisite urbanity so often found potent to charm away the resentment of a justly incensed nation. Soon after dawn the speech of the dying man failed. Before ten his senses were gone. Great numbers had repaired to the churches at the hour of morning service. When the prayer for the king was read, loud groans and sobs showed how deeply his people felt for him. At noon on Friday, the 6th of February, he passed away without a struggle."
Since the time of Œdipus no royal line has equalled that of the Stuarts in its calamities. The first James of Scotland, adorned with the graces of poetry and chivalry, a wise legislator, a sagacious and resolute king, perished in his forty-fourth year. His son, the second James, was killed, in his thirtieth year, at the siege of Roxburgh Castle, by the bursting of a cannon. The third James, after the battle of Sauchieburn, in which his rebellious subjects were countenanced and aided by his own son, was stabbed, in his thirty-sixth year, beneath a humble roof, by a pretended priest. That son, the chivalrous madman of Flodden, compassed his own death and that of the flower of his kingdom, while only forty years of age, by a foolish knight-errantry. At an age ten years younger, his only son, James V., died of a broken heart. Over the suffering and follies—if we may not say crimes—and over the mournful and unwarrantable doom of the beauteous Mary, the world will never cease to debate. Her grandson expiated at Whitehall, by a bloody death, the errors chiefly induced by his self-will and his pernicious education. The second Charles, the "Merry Monarch," had a fate as sad as any of his ancestors; for though he died in his bed, his life was that of a heartless voluptuary, who had found in his years of seeming prosperity neither truth in man nor fidelity in woman. His brother, the bigot James, lost three kingdoms, and disinherited the dynasty, for his blind adherence to a faith that failed to regulate his life. The Old Pretender was a cipher, and the Young Pretender, after a youthful flash of promise, passed a useless life, and ended it as a drunken dotard. The last of the race, Henry, Cardinal York, died in 1804, a spiritless old man, and a pensioner of that House of Hanover against which his father and brother had waged war with no advantage to themselves, and with the forfeiture of life and lands, of liberty and country, to many of the noblest and most chivalrous inhabitants of our island.
Happy had it been for Charles II. if he had demeaned himself as well in his prosperous as in his adverse fortune. The recorded facts are highly honourable to him and the companions of his exile; while Cromwell, as the Queen of Bohemia said, was like the beast in the Revelations, that all kings and nations worshipped. Charles's horses, and some of them were favourites, were sold at Brussels, because he could not pay for their keep; and during the two years that he resided at Cologne he never kept a coach. So straitened were the exiles for money that even the postage of letters between Sir Richard Browne and Hyde was no easy burthen; and there was a mutiny in the ambassador's kitchen, because the maid "might not be trusted with the government, and the buying the meat, in which she was thought too lavish." Hyde writes that he had not been master of a crown for many months; that he was cold for want of clothes and fire; and for all the meat which he had eaten for three months he was in debt to a poor woman who was no longer able to trust. "Our necessities," he says, "would be more insupportable, if we did not see the king reduced to greater distress than you can believe or imagine." Of Charles, in prosperity, a few days before his death, Evelyn draws a fearful picture. Writing on the day when James was proclaimed, he says, "I can never forget the inexpressible luxury and profaneness, gaming, and all dissoluteness and, as it were, total forgetfulness of God (it being Sunday evening), which this day se'nnight I was witness of; the King sitting and toying with his concubines, Portsmouth, Cleaveland, and Mazarine, &c.; a French boy singing lovesongs in that glorious gallery; whilst about twenty of the great courtiers and other dissolute persons were at basset round a large table, a bank of at least £2,000 in gold before them, upon which two gentlemen who were with me made reflections with astonishment. Six days after, all was in the dust!"
Whitehall, when Charles II. dwelt there, was the focus of political intrigue as well as of gaiety. "Half the jobbing and half the flirting of the metropolis," writes Macaulay, "went on under his roof. Whoever could make himself agreeable to the prince, or could secure the good offices of the mistress, might hope to rise in the world without rendering any service to the Government, without being even known by sight to any minister of state. This courtier got a frigate, and that a company; a third, the pardon of a rich offender; a fourth, a lease of Crown land on easy terms. If the king notified his pleasure that a briefless lawyer should be made a judge, or that a libertine baronet should be made a peer, the gravest counsellors, after a little murmuring, submitted. Interest, therefore, drew a constant press of suitors to the gates of the palace, and those gates always stood wide. The king kept open house every day, and all day long, for the good society of London, the extreme Whigs only excepted. Hardly any gentleman had any difficulty in making his way to the royal presence. The "levee" was exactly what the word imports. Some men of quality came every morning to stand round their master, to chat with him while his wig was combed and his cravat tied, and to accompany him in his early walk through the Park. All persons who had been properly introduced might, without any special invitation, go to see him dine, sup, dance, and play at hazard, and might have the pleasure of hearing him tell stories, which indeed he told remarkably well, about his flight from Worcester, and about the misery which he had endured when he was a State prisoner in the hands of the canting meddling preachers of Scotland. Bystanders whom his Majesty recognised often came in for a courteous word. This proved a far more successful kingcraft than any that his father or grandfather had practised. It was not easy for the most austere republican of the school of Marvell to resist the fascination of so much good humour and affability; and many a veteran Cavalier in whose heart the remembrance of unrequited sacrifices and services had been festering during twenty years, was compensated in one moment for wounds and sequestrations by his sovereign's kind nod, and 'God bless you, my old friend!'
"Whitehall naturally became the chief staple of news. Whenever there was a rumour that anything important had happened or was about to happen, people hastened thither to obtain intelligence from the fountain-head. The galleries presented the appearance of a modern club-room at an anxious time. They were full of people inquiring whether the Dutch mail was in; what tidings the express from France had brought; whether John Sobiesky had beaten the Turks; whether the Doge of Genoa was really at Paris. These were matters about which it was safe to talk aloud. But there were subjects concerning which information was asked and given in whispers. Had Halifax got the better of Rochester? Was there to be a Parliament? Was the Duke of York really going to Scotland? Had Monmouth really been summoned from the Hague? Men tried to read the countenance of every minister as he went through the throng to and from the royal closet. All sorts of auguries were drawn from the tone in which his Majesty spoke to the Lord President, or from the laugh with which his Majesty honoured a jest of the Lord Privy Seal; and in a few hours the hopes and fears inspired by such slight indications had spread to all the coffee-houses from St. James's to the Tower."
Notwithstanding the thirst for news and love of Court gossip, the Stuart kings appear to have lived here very much in public; so much so, indeed, that, if we may trust Macaulay, the "newswriters" of the reign of Charles II. would occasionally obtain admission into the gallery at Whitehall Palace, in order to tell their country friends how the king and duke looked, and what games the courtiers played at.
The sources from which Macaulay drew his information about the state of the Court are too numerous to recapitulate. Among them are the Despatches of Barillon, Van Citters, Ronquillo, and Adda; the Travels of the Grand Duke Cosmo; the Works of Roger North, the Diaries of Pepys and Evelyn, and the Memoirs of Grammont.
The royal family of Stuart would seem to have been as unfortunate in their domestic servants as in their fate; for Northouck tells us that twice within a few years, in the reign of William and Mary, the Palace of Whitehall suffered serious damage by fire; firstly in April, 1691, when a large part of it was destroyed "through the negligence of a maid-servant, who, about eight o'clock at night," says the very circumstantial Northouck, "to save the labour of cutting a candle from a pound, burnt it off, and threw the rest carelessly by before the flame was out. It burnt violently till four next morning, and destroyed the Duchess of Portsmouth's lodgings, with all the stone gallery and buildings behind and down to the Thames." Six years later, we learn from the same authority, by "the carelessness of a laundress," all the body of the Palace, with the new gallery, council-chamber, and several adjoining apartments, shared the same fate. It was with the greatest difficulty that the Banqueting Hall was saved. "The king," adds Northouck, "sent message after message from Kensington, for its preservation;" though it is hard to see how even royal "messengers" could have been of as much use as a few rude fire-engines.
Another event connected with Whitehall, in the reigns of the Stuarts, should be mentioned here—namely, that within its walls the devotion of the "Sacred Heart," devised by Sister Marguerite Mary Alacoqu at Paray-le-Monial, in France, was first publicly preached and taught in England, by Father Colombiere, the confessor of the Duchess of York—Mary of Modena, afterwards queen of James II.