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found him pathetically reciting the well-known lines
from Milton :

" Oh, dark ! dark! dark ! amid the blaze of noon
Irrevocably dark ! Total eclipse
Without all hope of day !
Oh, first created beam, and thou great word,
Let there be light, and light was over all;
Why am I thus deprived thy prime decree ! "

Indeed, although a royal, it was a troubled house-
hold. Circumstances in the lives of two of the sons
of the king York and Cumberland caused him
great anxiety; but the death of his youngest, and
perhaps best-loved daughter, Amelia, in 1810, finished
the ravage which care and other causes had inflicted
on his intellect. Walcheren and Amelia were said
to be ever in his thoughts, as long, at least, as he
had the power to think, and the privilege to weep.
The idea of the loss of his royal authority, too,
pressed heavily upon him. The time came, in 1811,
when such deprivation was necessary, and that year
commenced the unbroken period of what may be
termed his gentle insanity.

When the unquestionable presence of this calamity
necessarily introduced into Parliament the regency
question, "Scott (Eldon) made one of the most
extraordinary assertions that Parliament was ever
called upon to listen to." He affirmed that, when
the king was incapable, the sovereignty, for the time
being, resided in the great seal. He added, that
Parliament had a right to elect the regent, the prin-
ciple of hereditary right not being here applicable.


The right of the queen was spoken of ; but it was
intimated, as if from authority, that the queen was
not likely to oppose the government of her son.

That government was established ; but the care of
the king's person remained with the queen, who was
assisted by a council. This rendered an almost con-
stant attendance at Windsor necessary; but the
restraint was compensated for by an additional ten
thousand a year.

The queen's letters to Lord Chancellor Eldon are
all expressive of the utmost gratitude for services
rendered, and of suggestions touching offices ex-
pected. She is anxious that, at "her council," the
great officers of state should be present, to receive
the reports of his Majesty's health, made by the
physicians who are in daily attendance upon him.
When a gleam of improvement manifests itself in the
king's gloomy condition, she is anxious that too much
should not be made of, nor expected from it. Of
these promises of amelioration, none was more readily
sensible than the king himself ; and his inclination
to believe that he was well, or on the point of becom-
ing perfectly so, was an inclination which she thought
was by no means to be encouraged. Her urgency
on this point is remarkable, and is singularly at
variance with common sense ; for a quiet acquies-
cence in the king's often expressed conviction that
he was convalescent, would seem to have been less
likely to agitate him than as often a repeated assur-
ance that he was entirely mistaken. The queen's
letters, on this melancholy matter, do not exhibit
much dignity, either of sentiment or expression ; nor,
indeed, was she a woman to affect either. She cared


as little for sentiment as she did for grammar, and
she is said, at this time, to have exhibited a disregard
for a consistent use of pronouns. In " Lord Eldon's
Life," by Horace Twiss, is a note of hers, addressed
to the lord chancellor, which commences with " The
queen feels," passes into an allusion touching how
severe "our" trials have been, and ends with an
" I hope Providence will bring us through."

But she could write merry little notes, too, and to
the same august person. With the establishment
of the regency, it seemed as if a great burden had
been taken from her; and her sprightliness at and
about her son's festivals was quite remarkable in an
aged and so naturally "staid " a lady. On occasion
of the regent's birthday, in 1812, she despatched a
letter to the lord chancellor, in court. It commences
merrily, with a sort of written laugh at the surprise
the grand dignitary will doubtless feel at seeing a
lady's letter penetrate into his solemn court ; and
thus sportively it runs on with a gay invitation to
come down to Frogmore to spend the regent's birth-
day. " You will not be learnedly occupied," perhaps,
suggests the mirthful old lady, " but you will be, at
least, legally engaged in the lawful occupation of

The office held by the queen was not a pleasant
one, but she contrived to reconcile it with a consider-
able amount of enjoyment. The events of her life
which brought her in collision with her daughter-in-
law, will be found detailed in the story of the latter.
Those of her office as guardian of the king sometimes
brought her in connection with touching incidents.
Thus, she one day found him singing a hymn to the


accompaniment of a harpsichord, played by himself.
On concluding it, he knelt down, prayed for his
family, the nation, and finally that God would restore
to him the reason which he felt he had lost ! At
other times he might be heard invoking death, and
he even imagined himself dead, and asked for a suit
of black that he might go into mourning for the old
king ! These incidents were great trials to the queen,
who witnessed them, or had them reported to her.
But she had trials also from another source.

In 1816, the public distress was very great, and
those in high places were unpopular, often for no
better reason than that they were in high places, and
were supposed to be indifferent to the sufferings of
the more lowly and harder tried. The queen came
in for more than her due share of the popular ill-will,
but she met the first expression of it with uncom-
mon spirit ; a spirit, indeed, which gained for her the
silent respect of the mob, who had begun by insulting
her. As her Majesty was proceeding to her last
drawing-room, in the year 1815, she was sharply
hissed, loudly reviled, and insultingly asked what she
had done with the Princess Charlotte. She was so
poorly protected that the mob actually stopped her
chair. Whereupon, it is reported, she quietly let
down the glass, and calmly said to those nearest to
her : " I am above seventy years of age ; I have
been more than half a century Queen of England ;
and I never was hissed by a mob before." The
mob admired the spirit of the undaunted old lady,
and they allowed her to pass on without further

Her son, the prince regent, sent several aids-de-


camp to escort his mother from St. James's to Buck-
ingham House, but she declined their attendance.
They told her that having had the orders of the
regent to escort her safely to her residence, they felt
bound to perform the office entrusted to them by the
prince. " You have left Carlton House by his Royal
Highness's orders," said Queen Charlotte ; " return
there by mine, or I will leave my chair, and go home
on foot." She was, of course, carefully watched, in
spite of her commands, but the cool magnanimity she
displayed was quite sufficient to procure respect for
her from the crowd.

Although the king had some lucid intervals, he
never again became perfectly conscious of the bear-
ing of public events, and if he was deprived of some
enjoyment thereby, he was also spared much pain.
He was as little aware of what passed in his own
family, and although he could make pertinent ques-
tions, and sometimes argue correctly enough, from
wrong premises, he was unable to comprehend the
meaning of much that was told to him. Thus
the marriage of his granddaughter, a circumstance
to which he used to allude playfully, was now to him
a perfect blank. This ceremony took place on the
2d of May, 1816. It will be more fully alluded to
hereafter. In this place it may, however, be stated,
that the drawing-room in honour of the marriage of
the Princess Charlotte to Prince Leopold was held
at Buckingham House. It was brilliant, the queen
was gracious, and only the regent exhibited a want of
his usual urbanity, by turning his back on a lady who
was about to enter the service of the Princess of
Wales. The bride did not look her best on this


public occasion. She stood apart from the royal
circle, in a recess formed by a window, with her back
to the light, and was " deadly pale." There was an
expression of pleasure on her countenance, but it was
thought to be forced. " Prince Leopold," says a con-
temporary writer, " was looking about him with a
keen glance of inquiry, as if he would like to know
in what light people regarded him." The queen
either was, or pretended to be, in the highest possible
spirits, and was very gracious to everybody. All the
time I was in this courtly scene, and especially as I
looked at the Princess Charlotte, I could not help
thinking of the Princess of Wales, and feeling very
sorry and very angry at her cruel fate. ... I dare
say the Princess Charlotte was thinking of the Prin-
cess of Wales, when she stood in the gay scene of
to-day's drawing-room, and that the remembrance
of her mother, excluded from all her rights and privi-
leges in a foreign country, and left almost without
any attendants, made her feel very melancholy. I
never can understand how Queen Charlotte could
dare refuse to receive the Princess of Wales at the
public drawing-room, any more than she would any
other lady of whom nothing has been publicly proved
against her character. Of one thing there can be no
doubt. The queen is the slave of the regent."

Of this assertion, however, very grave doubt may
be entertained. The regent, at this time, certainly
loved the "old queen," as she was familiarly called,
if a service of tender respect, deference, courtesy,
and apparent good-will, may be taken as proofs of
such a love existing.

Her own health was now beginning to give way,


and she sought to restore it by trying the efficacy of
the Bath waters ; but with only temporary relief.
She was at Bath when the news of the death of the
Princess Charlotte reached her, in November, 1817,
and her health grew visibly worse under the shock.
Her absence from the side of the young princess at
this period, which was followed by such fatal conse-
quences, was at the request of the princess herself,
who knew that the queen's good-will in this case was
stronger than her ability. The popular voice, how-
ever, blamed her, and it was unmistakably expressed
on her return to London.

The last visit paid by the queen to the city, dif-
fered in every respect from that which she had paid it
when a bride. Her first visit had been one of form
and ceremony ; mingled, however, with a hearty lack
of formality in some of the occurrences of the day.
She went amid the citizens surrounded by guards ;
and this attendance was not as doubting the loyalty
of the Londoners, but that royalty might look respect-
able in their eyes. On the occasion of the last visit,
her Majesty intimated to the lord mayor, Alderman
Christopher Smith, that she wished to be received
without ceremony ; and this wish the corporate mag-
nates construed as meaning without protection ; there
was as little of that as of civil politeness. The high
constable of Westminster attended near her Maj-
esty's carriage as far as Temple Bar, the westward
limit of his jurisdiction. On arriving there, however,
he found no one in authority to receive the queen,
and accordingly he continued to ride by the side of
the royal carriage until it reached the Mansion House.
The mob was afoot, active, numerous, and rudely-


tongued that day. As the queen passed througn she
was assailed by the most hideous yells, and many of
the populace thrust their heads into the carriage, and
gave expression to the most diabolical menaces. If it
be true, as has been reported, that the queen minutely
detailed in writing the memoirs of her own life, the
events of this day must have been penned by a trem-
bling, but indignant hand. At the Mansion House,
so little protection was afforded her, that the fore-
most of the people were almost thrust upon her,
their violence of speech shocked her ears, and they
attempted, but unsuccessfully, to disarm one of her
footmen of his sword. In the evening of this melan-
choly last visit she dined with the Duke of York,
and it was there that she first suffered from a violent
spasmodic attack, from the effects of which she never
perfectly recovered. The lord mayor stoutly main-
tained that the visit had very much improved her
Majesty's health. He thought, perhaps, that excite-
ment was a tonic to age and infirmity. The queen's
health really suffered materially from the excitement ;'
and it was not with her wonted calmness that she
could even listen, on the following Sun4ay, to the
usual weekly sermon, always read aloud to her by one
of the princesses.

It is certain that from the early part of the year,
1 8 1 8, the aged queen may be said to have been in a
rapidly declining state. Her condition, however, was
not highly dangerous till the autumn, when her spas-
modic attacks became more frequent and the progress
of dropsical symptoms more alarming. Her suffer-
ings were very great, and if she experienced tempo-
rary ease, the slightest variation of position renewed


her pain. She continued in this condition until the
1 4th of November, when, by a slight rupture in the
skin of both ankles, from which there took place a
considerable effusion of water, the venerable lady ex-
perienced some relief. Her condition, however, was
not bettered thereby, for mortification soon set in,
and that portion of her family which was in attend-
ance upon her, soon learned that all hope was aban-
doned ; after an interval of more than eighty years,
England was again about to lose a queen consort ;
but no queen consort had for so long a period shared
the throne of the empire as Charlotte. For fifty-
seven years she had occupied the high place from
which she was now about to descend. On Tuesday,
the i6th of November, 1818, at one o'clock p. M., the
queen calmly departed, at her suburban palace at
Kew. Her last breath was drawn in the arms of
her eldest son, the regent, whose attentions to her
had been unremitting, and the Duke of York, and
the Princess Augusta, and the Duchess of Glouces-
ter were also present. The Princess Elizabeth of
Hesse-Homburg was said to have been absent, on
account of some difference between herself and her
royal mother, but it was afterward ascertained that a
reconciliation had taken place between mother and
child before the princess left the kingdom for her
own home. How far the queen had acquitted her-
self as a parent toward her children was made a
" vexed question " at the time of her death ; and an
endeavour was made to connect the fact of the dis-
persion of several of the princes and princesses in
foreign countries, with the mother as an irritating
cause thereof. The Times, at the period of which


we are treating, entered largely upon this subject ;
and that organ was evidently inclined to conclude
that her Majesty had not succeeded in attaching to
her the hearts of her children. " The Duke of Cum-
berland," said the Times, "is out of the question.
The inflexible, but well-meant determination of the
queen to stigmatise her niece, by shutting the doors
of the royal palace against her, may excuse strong
feelings of estrangement or resentment on the part
of the duchess and her kindred. But that the Dukes
of Clarence, Kent, and Cambridge at the same time
should have quitted, as if by signal, their parent's
death-bed, is a circumstance which, in lower life,
would have at least astonished the community."
We have noticed that the Princess Elizabeth was
on good terms with her royal but dying mother,
when the latter parted with her daughter. This
much is at least asserted by the Morning Post. The
Times says, more speculatively, that " the departure
of the Princess Elizabeth, the queen's favourite
daughter, who married and took leave of her, in the
midst of that illness which was pronounced must
shortly bring her to the grave, may, perhaps, have
been owing to the express injunctions of her Maj-
esty. The Duke of Gloucester stands in a more
remote degree of relationship ; Prince Leopold more
distant still ; but they all quitted the scene of suffer-
ing at a period when its fatal termination could not
be doubted ; and, as these have departed, it is no less
apparent to common observers that the Queen of
Wiirtemberg might have approached the bed of a
dying mother, from whom, by the usual lot of princes,
she has been so long separated, as that her royal


parent has not accepted from her the performance of
that painful duty." The same authority, however,
confesses that the leading members of the royal
family who remained in England were unwearied in
their attendance on their dying parent, and so far set
an example to the people of England, over whom they
had been placed by Providence.

The influence of Queen Charlotte in political
affairs, even had she been as much inclined to exer-
cise it as her enemies charged her with, was but
small. It could not be otherwise in a country with
such a constitution as ours a limited monarchy,
the ministers of which are sure to be made respon-
sible for grave consequences arising from the sur-
render of their authority to a power unrecognised by
the constitution. That the influence, however, was
not quite dormant was seen in the fact of the govern-
ment paying the debts of her Majesty's brother, the
Prince of Strelitz, with ^30,000 of the public money ;
and the same influence was suspected when the
queen's friend, the Earl of Suffolk, who had under-
taken to arrange the embarrassed affairs of the Prince
of Strelitz, was appointed to the office of secretary
of state.

If the queen was not always a liberal recompenser,
she, at least, was a punctual payer. In this respect,
she excelled the king himself. On the other hand,
when the latter was at issue with his brothers or
children because of objectionable marriages entered
into by them, the queen did not aggravate the quar-
rel, although she felt keenly on the subject. She
was in many respects a " homely " woman, but in
matters of homeliness the king set the example. He


watched incessantly over the mental and physical
education of his children ; " and the daily discipline
of the nursery itself did not escape his paternal
solicitudes." But, says the Times, "that her Maj-
esty's voluntary tastes were not exactly those which
had been inferred from the habits of her matrimonial
life, may be conjectured from the revolution which
they seemed to undergo soon after the period when
her royal husband ceased to exercise the supreme
authority in this realm. At that period, a transition
was observed 'from grave to gay.' The sober dig-
nity, the chastened grandeur, the national character
of the English court seemed to vanish with the
afflicted sovereign. A new species of grandeur now
succeeded, in which there was more of the exterior of
royalty and less of its becoming spirit. A long series
of what was meant to be festivities crowded balls,
and elaborate suppers, glittering pomp, gaudy and
gorgeous, yet fluttering decoration reckless, capri-
cious, yet never ending profusion all the apparatus
of commonplace magnificence were introduced with
the regency and countenanced, or apparently not
discountenanced, by the queen." It must be remem-
bered, however, that in these matters she had no
control over the regent ; indeed, we have, in a former
page, seen her called his "slave." During her life,
she, at all events, had influence enough to maintain a
regal retinue about the person of her afflicted hus-
band. She had no sooner expired, however, when
her son dismissed immediately nearly the whole of
this retinue, on the ground of its uselessness to the
unconscious king, and the very great expense it was
to the country. The country was not unwilling to


see a few thousands a year economised by stripping
the fine old monarch of some of the superfluous
grandeur by which he was surrounded. The country,
nevertheless, was sorely perplexed and bitterly indig-
nant when it saw that the thousands which had been
paid to numerous officers in daily service on the
king, were now to be paid to the Duke of York, who,
for ten thousand a year, constrained his filial affec-
tion to the severe labour of inquiring after his sick
sire once a week.

The queen's funeral took place on the 2d of De-
cember, at Windsor. It was a public funeral in the
accepted sense of that term, but the arrangements
were inappropriate. The procession mainly con-
sisted of military, horse and foot, as if they had
been escorting a warrior, and not a woman, to the
tomb. The members of the peerage did scant
honour to the queen whom they had professed to
reverence when alive. Few, and those not of note,
were present. The absence of peeresses was espe-
cially noted. Indeed, the public funeral of Charlotte
was more private than the private funeral of her pred-
ecessor, Caroline.

The will of Queen Charlotte was that of a woman
of foresight and good memory rather than of feeling
and affection. The document was proved by Lord
Arden and General Taylor, the executors. It was
in the general's handwriting, and was witnessed by
Sir Francis Millman and Sir Henry Halford. The
personal property was sworn to as being under
j 1 40,000.

The substance of the will was as follows : The
royal testatrix directed that her debts, and the leg-


acies and annuities noticed in her will should be paid
out of the personality, or sale of personals, if there
should not be wherewith in her Majesty's treasury to
provide for those payments. The personal property
was of various descriptions ; part of it comprised the
real estate in New Windsor, which she had purchased
of the Duke of St. Albans, and which was known as
the Lower Lodge (left to the Princess Sophia) ; but
the personality of the greatest value may be said to
have been those splendid jewels, which she cherished
so dearly, and for which she affected to have such
little care. These the systematic sovereign divided
into three parts : those presented to her by the king
on her marriage, worth .50,000 ; those presented to
her by the Nabob of Arcot, for the acquisition of
which she paid by a temporary forfeiture of what she
very little regarded, popular favour ; and those pur-
chased by herself, or which she had received as pres-
ents on birthday occasions. Such souvenirs were to
her the most welcome gifts that could be made
to her on that or any other anniversary. Of these
jewels she made the following disposal : she directed
that the diamonds given to her by the king, on her
marriage, should revert to him only on condition that,
with survivorship, there should be recovery of his
mental faculties. If he were not restored to reason,
she then directed what he never would have con-
sented to had his reason been restored to him that
they should be made over to the Crown of Hanover,
as an heirloom. Such a disposal of property which
should have remained in England transferred the
diamonds to Hanover whenever that kingdom should
be divided from England by the accession, in the


latter country, of a queen who, according to the
law of Hanover, could not reign in that Continental

The splendid tribute which the Nabob of Arcot
had deposited at her feet she divided among four of
her daughters. The excepted daughter was the
Queen of Wurtemberg, whom she looked upon as
exceedingly well provided for. To the remaining
four the careful mother did not bequeath the glitter-
ing gems, but the value of them after they were sold,
and after certain debts were discharged from the
produce of the sale. The four princesses divided be-
tween them what remained. The jewels which she
had bought, or had received as birthday presents,
were also to be divided among the same four daugh-
ters according to a valuation to be made of them.
The diamonds were valued at nearly a million. In
ready money the queen left behind her only .4,000.

Frogmore was bequeathed to the Princess Augusta ;
and her plate, linen, pictures, china, books, furniture,
etc., were left to the four princesses already named.
Of her sons the testatrix made no mention, nor to

Online LibraryDr. (John) DoranLives of the queens of England of the House of Hanover (Volume 3) → online text (page 9 of 27)