W. H. (William Henry) Wilkins.

Caroline, the illustrious queen-consort of George II, and sometime queen-regent; a study of her life and time (Volume 2) online

. (page 1 of 29)
Online LibraryW. H. (William Henry) WilkinsCaroline, the illustrious queen-consort of George II, and sometime queen-regent; a study of her life and time (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 29)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook







Bon Adams and Don Adams


Mrs. Bon Adams and
Mrs, Ray B. McCarty


XtfLtL /Jl^ ^4jAx if/ CUi/?-/l/tfr/tt/l^.j^*^ The Court of Queen Caroline 53



The Royal Family 83


Caroline's First Regency 112

The Queen and the Nation 136


The Queen and Literature 156

The Excise Scheme 184

Frederick, Prince of Wales 203




Caroline and the Church ........ 223.

The Marriage of the Princess Royal 249

The Marriage of the Prince of Wales 269.

Caroline's Last Regency 296

The Prince and the Patriots 325.

The Queen's Illness and Death 344

Illustrissima Carolina . 361

Appendix jgg.

Index a^o


Queen Caroline and the Duke of Cumberland

King George II. From the painting by John Shackleton
in the National Portrait Gallery .....

The Coronation Banquet of George II. and Queen

Sir Robert Walpole. From the painting by J. B. Van
Loo in the National Portrait Gallery ....

Hampton Court, temp. George II

Henrietta Howard (Countess of Suffolk)

The Princess Amelia (Second Daughter of George II.)

Letter of Queen Caroline to the King of France

The Altstadt, Hanover

The Princess Clementina (Consort of Prince James
Francis Edward Stuart). From the painting in
the National Portrait Gallery

Mrs. Clayton (Viscountess Sundon) ....

John, Lord Hervey

Philip Stanhope, Earl of Chesterfield. From the
painting in the National Portrait Gallery .

Frederick, Prince of Wales

Benjamin Hoadley, Bishop of Winchester. From a
painting by Mrs. Hoadley in the National Portrait

. Frontispiece
to face page 14








Anne, Princess Royal, and the Prince of Orange, to face page 2^6^

Augusta, Princess of Wales, at the Time of Her

Marriage >, 284

The Old Tolbooth, Edinburgh, temp. 1736. From

an old print „ 308

The Princesses Mary and Louisa (Daughters of

George II.) „ 328

The Princess Caroline (Third Daughter of George

II.) ,, 348

Henry VII. 's Chapel, Westminster Abbey, temp.

1737 " 364






The news of George the First's death reached
England four days after he had breathed his last at
Osnabriick. A messenger, bearing sealed des-
patches from Lord Townshend, arrived at Sir
Robert Walpole's house in Arlington Street at noon
on Wednesday, June 14th. He was told that the
Prime Minister was at Chelsea, and he at once
repaired thither. He found the great man at dinner.
Walpole was thunderstruck at the news, for the old
King was of so strong a constitution that, despite
his occasional fainting fits, every one expected him
to live to a green old age, as his mother had done
before him. His sudden death, too, might mean the
end of the Prime Minister's political career. But
there was no time for vain reg-rets — the King- was
dead, long live the King. So ordering his horse
to be saddled, Walpole rode off at full speed to
Richmond, where George Augustus then was, to
announce the tidings and pay homage to his new-
Sovereign. The day was hot, and so furiously did
he ride that he killed, his son tells us, two horses


between Chelsea and Richmond ; but then his son
was given to exaggeration.

Walpole arrived at Richmond Lodge about
three o'clock, and requested to be shown at once
into the royal presence. The Duchess of Dorset,
who was in waiting, said it was impossible, as the
Prince had undressed and gone to bed after dinner
according to his custom, and the Princess was rest-
ing also, and no one dared disturb them. But
Walpole explained that his business brooked of no
delay, and the duchess went to wake them. The
King (as he must now be called), very irate at
being- disturbed, came into the ante-chamber in haste
with his breeches in his hand — he was one of those
princes who are fated to appear ridiculous even at
the greatest moments of their lives. Walpole fell
on one knee, kissed the hand holding the breeches,
and told his Majesty that his royal sire was dead,
and he was King of England. " Dat is von big
lie," shouted King George the Second, as he had
shouted at the Duke of Roxburgh on a memorable
occasion some time before. But Walpole, unlike
the duke, showed no resentment at being given
the lie, and for all answer produced Townshend's
despatch, which gave particulars of the late King's
death. George snatched the letter from him and
eagerly conned it ; but his face did not relax as he
read, nor did his manner unbend towards the Prime
Minister. Walpole uttered some words of formal
condolence, but they were ungraciously ignored.
After an awkward pause, he asked the King his


pleasure with regard to the Accession Council, the
Proclamation, and other matters necessary to be done
at once, naturally expecting that he should be com-
manded to attend to them. " Go to Chiswick, and
take your directions from Sir Spencer Compton,"
said the King curtly, and turned his back as an
intimation that the interview was at an end. George
the Second then went to tell the great news to his
Queen, and the crestfallen Minister withdrew, to go,
as ordered, to Compton.

Walpole's reflections on his ride to Chiswick
must have been bitter indeed. Well might he ex-
claim, as his fallen rival, Bolingbroke, had done
under a similar reverse : " What a world is this and
how does Fortune banter us ! " For years he had
been Prime Minister with almost absolute power,
enjoying to the full the confidence of his Sovereign.
Suddenly he was stripped of every shred of authority,
and dismissed (for the King's bidding him go to
Compton was tantamount to a dismissal) without
the slightest consideration, like a dishonest servant.
Walpole knew that George the Second owed him
a grudge for not having kept his promises at the
reconciliation, and disliked him, as he disliked all
who enjoyed the late King's favour. But the
Prime Minister hoped that time and Caroline's in-
fluence would put things right. He did not know
that Pulteney had repeated certain remarks he had
incautiously made soon after the reconciliation, when
Pulteney asked him what terms he had got for
the Prince of Wales. Walpole answered with a


sneer: "Why, he is to go to court again, and he
will have his drums and guards, and such fine
things". " But," said Pulteney, "is the Prince to
be left Regent as he was when the King first left
England?" Walpole replied, "Certainly not, he
does not deserve it, we have done more than
enough for him ; and if it were to be done again,
we would not do so much ". ^ George the Second's
little mind resented slights of this kind more than
greater wrongs, and he now took his revenge.

Sir Spencer Compton, to whom the disconcerted
Minister sadly made his way, had been Speaker
of the House of Commons, Treasurer of the Prince
of Wales's Household, and Paymaster of the Army.
Compton was much more of a courtier than a
politician. He was a man of the mediocre order
of ability that often makes a good and safe official ;
he knew all about forms, procedure, and precedents,
but he was not a leader of men, and he was quite
unprepared for, and quite unequal to, the great
position now thrust upon him. Walpole, who knew
the man with whom he had to deal, felt towards
Compton no personal resentment. He acquainted
him briefly with George the First's death, gave
him the new King's commands, and added on his
own behalf: "Everything is in your hands; I
neither could shake your power if I would, nor
would if I could. My time has been, yours is
beginning ; but as we all must depend in some
degree upon our successors, and as it is always

' Pulteney's Answer to an infamous Libel.


prudent for these successors, by way of example, to
have some regard for their predecessors, that the
measure they mete out may be measured to them
again — for this reason I put myself under your pro-
tection, and for this reason I expect you will give it.
I desire no share of power or business, one of your
white sticks,^ or any employment of that sort, is all
I ask, as a mark from the Crown that I am not
abandoned to the enmity of those whose envy is the
only source of their hate." '"

Though Compton was astonished at the news,
he did not conceal his delight at the unexpected
honour that had fallen upon him. Walpole's speech
flattered his vanity, and perhaps also touched his
heart ; he grandiloquently promised him his pro-
tection, and, thinking he had nothing to fear from
the fallen statesman, took him into his confidence
and consulted him as to how he should proceed.
The two Ministers then drove together to Devonshire
House to see the Duke of Devonshire, President of
the Council, and arrange for an immediate meeting
of the Privy Council. At forms Compton was an
adept, but when it came to the speech that had to
be put into the King's mouth he was nonplussed.
He took Walpole aside, and asked him, as he
had composed all the speeches of the late King,
to compose this one also. Walpole pretended to
demur, but as Compton persisted, he consented and
withdrew to a private room in Devonshire House

1 The officers of the Royal Household carried white wands.
''Harvey's Memoirs.


to draft the speech, while Compton set off to do
homage to the King and Queen. Walpole must
have chuckled over his task, for if the precedent-
loving Compton had only consulted the back folios
of the Gazette he would have found plenty of models
for the King's speech ; but he was so fussed with
forms and ceremonies, and so elated with the sense
of his new importance, that he was incapable of
thinking coherently.

The King and Queen had driven up from Rich-
mond in the afternoon, and were now arrived at
Leicester House. The great news had spread
abroad, and all London was flocking to Leicester
Fields. When Compton arrived there, the square
was so thronged with people who had assembled to
cheer their Majesties that the coaches and chairs
of the mighty, who were hurrying to pay their court,
could scarce make way through the crowd. Inside
Leicester House the walls were already hung with
purple and black, and the Queen appeared in " black
bombazine " ; but these were the only signs of
mourning, all else wore an aspect of rejoicing and
congratulation. The new King and Queen held a
court, the rooms were thronged with the great
nobility and high officials, and persons of divers
parties and creeds struggled up and down the stairs,
all anxious to kiss their Majesties' hands, and to
profess their loyalty and devotion. The Queen,
who had a keen sense of irony, must have smiled
to herself when she contrasted the crowded rooms
before her with the thinly attended receptions which


Leicester House (except on great occasions such as
birthdays) had witnessed during the past few years.

This was the proudest hour of Caroline's Hfe.
She had reached the summit of her ambition, she
had become Queen. But the mere show of
sovereignty did not content her, she was deter-
mined to be the power behind the throne greater
than the throne. It was not enough for her that
she had become Queen through her husband, she
was determined to rule through him also. Did this
inscrutable woman, we wonder, in this her hour of
glory, recall the parallel Leibniz had drawn long be-
fore, when the prospects of the House of Hanover
were darkest, between her and England's greatest
Queen, Elizabeth ? May-be, for, like Elizabeth, Caro-
line determined to have her Cecil. She knew there
was but one man in England capable of maintaining
the Hanoverian dynasty upon the throne in peace,
and that one was Walpole. She had been dismayed
when the King told her that he had sent for Comp-
ton, for she knew Compton's weakness. But, like
a wise woman she did not attempt to thwart her
husband in the first heat of his resentment ag-ainst
his father's favourite minister, who had been, willingly
■or unwillingly, the late King's mouthpiece for many
slights to him, and perhaps, too, she thought it would
be good for Walpole to be taught a lesson. She
bided her time.

Compton at once had audience of the King.
When he came out from the royal closet he
walked across the courtyard to his coach between


lines of bowing and fawning courtiers, all anxious
to bask in the rays of the rising sun. They knew
full well what this audience portended. Compton,
greatly flattered by this homage, drove back to
Devonshire House, where he found that the man
whom he had superseded had finished the King's
speech. Compton was graciously pleased to approve
the draft ; he took it and copied it in his own hand-
writing. He then again repaired to Leicester House
to present it to the King. On this occasion he was
accompanied by the Duke of Devonshire and other
privy councillors, including Walpole, who were to
be present at the Accession Council. George the
Second liked the speech well enough, but found
fault with one paragraph and desired that it should
be altered. Compton wished it to stand, for he knew
not how to change it, but the King was obdurate
and very testy at being opposed. Compton was
then so incredibly foolish, from the point of view of
his own interest, as to ask Walpole to go to the
King's closet and see what he could do. Walpole
went, nothing loath, and improved the occasion by
declaring- to the King; his willingness to serve him
either in or out of office. This was the Queen's
opportunity. According to some, it was she who
suggested that Walpole should be sent for ; she
certainly suggested to the King that perhaps he
had been a little hasty, and it would be bad for his
affairs to employ a man like Compton, who had
already shown himself inferior in ability to the
Minister whom he was to succeed. But Caroline


could do no more at this juncture than suggest,
and leave the leaven to work in the King's mind.
George the Second held his Accession Council
that same night at Leicester House. He read his
speech to his faithful councillors in which he lamented
"the sudden and unexpected death of the King, my
dearest father," he spoke of his " love and affection "
for England and declared his intention of preserv-
ing the laws and liberties of the kingdom, and
upholding the constitution as it stood. If he felt
any relenting towards Walpole it was not visible in
his manner. Compton took the first place, and the
man who had hitherto dominated the councils of the
King, and was still nominally Prime Minister, was
completely ignored by the new Sovereign. The
office-seekers were not slow to follow the lead. For
the next few days Leicester House was crowded
every day, but whenever Walpole appeared the
courtiers shrank away from him as though he had
the plague. Walpole himself, though he knew the
utter weakness of Compton, had no hope of being
continued in office, and hourly expected to receive
the King's command to give up the seals. " I shall
certainly go out," he said to his friend Sir William
Yonge, after the Council, " but let me advise you
not to go into violent opposition, as we must soon
come in again." Yonge quickly had experience of
going out, for he was dismissed the next day, the
King had always hated him and called him "stink-
ing Yonge " ; Lord Malpas, Walpole's son-in-law,
was dismissed also. But the public announcement


of the Prime Minister's dismissal tarried unaccount-
ably — unaccountably that is to those who were
not behind the scenes.

The Queen's influence was now beginning to
tell. At first she persuaded the King to delay, for
she knew that if he delayed he would reflect, and
if he reflected he would change his mind. She
reminded him of the trouble a change of Ministers
would involve before he was comfortably seated on
the throne, and she knew the King hated trouble.
The King objected to Walpole's notorious greed
for gold, but the Queen met this by saying that,
with so many opportunities of amassing wealth, he
must by this time have become so rich that he
would want no more, and this, in a lesser degree,
applied to his colleagues. " The old leeches," she
cynically added, "will not be so hungry as the new
ones, and will know their business much better."
The critical situation of foreign affairs was another
of the arguments used by the Queen in favour of
Walpole, for no one had the same grasp of the
tangled skeins of foreign policy as he. The
European courts, which did not understand the
working of the English Constitution, might be-
come alarmed at a sudden change of Ministry
and imagine that it foretold a change in England's
foreign policy, thus creating a general distrust,
which would be dangerous to the reigning dynasty,
more especially as there was always the fear of
secret negotiations going on between James and
the Roman Catholic courts of Europe. This was


particularly true of France, with whom it was of the
utmost importance to maintain good relations at the
present juncture. Whilst Caroline was thus argu-
ing, as luck would have it, Horace Walpole, the
Prime Minister's brother, who was ambassador to
France, arrived in England with a letter which his
diplomacy had obtained from Cardinal de Fleury,
pledging his master to maintain the treaties France
had entered into with the late King, and to show
goodwill towards George and ill-will to James. All
these considerations told. But the most cogent argu-
ment which the Queen urged, and the one which had
undoubtedly the most weight with the King, was
the settlement of the Civil List. The new Civil
List, Caroline reminded the King, was pressing,
but a change of Ministers was not. There was
nobody so able as Walpole to secure for them a
handsome increase of the Civil List, for, as the old
King said, he "could turn stones into gold". Why
then let private resentment lead to personal incon-
venience ?

Nothing was done during the King's stay at
Leicester House, and in the eyes of the world
Compton was still first in the King's favour. At
the end of the week the Court moved to Kensington,
and by that time the Queen had worked so well that
the King sent for Walpole, and asked him about the
Civil List. The new monarch mentioned a sum
so large that Walpole was staggered, accustomed
though he was to Hanoverian rapacity ; but he
showed nothing of his feeling in his face, and pro-


mised to do his utmost to serve his Majesty. He
then had an audience of the Queen, who confided to
him that Compton's estimate had by no means satis-
fied the King's demands, and he had proposed that
she should have only a poor ^60,000 a year,
Walpole at once grasped the situation. He de-
clared that he would obtain a jointure for her
Majesty of ^100,000 a year, which was ^40,000
more than Compton had proposed, and he would force
Parliament to meet the King's wishes. It was said
that Walpole bought his influence with the Queen for
this extra ^40,000 a year, but that was not wholly
true. Quite apart from money, Caroline had wit
enough to see that the interests of the House of
Hanover could best be served by Walpole, and of
all English statesmen he was the one who could
most be trusted to frustrate the Jacobites — for the
rival claims of the Stuarts were an ever present
danger to the Hanoverian family until 1745. She
was, of course, not averse to receiving something
in return for her support, and Walpole, it must be
admitted, paid, or rather made the nation pay, for
it handsomely. In addition to the Queen's ^100,000
a year, Somerset House and Richmond Lodge were
made over to her. Her income was double what
any queen-consort had enjoyed before, and more
than any has been granted since.

Walpole now realised that all that lay between
him and power was a question of money. He there-
fore went next morning to the King with carefully
prepared estimates. He proposed that his Majesty's


Frotn the Painting by John Shackleton in the National Poiirait Galle


Civil List should consist primarily of the ^700,000 a
year paid to the late King ; ^100,000 more, which
had been paid directly to the Prince of Wales in the
last reign, but which would now be vested in the
King to make what allowance he pleased to his
eldest son ; and a further increase of ^130,000 a year
arising out of certain funds. In all, therefore, the
King would receive the enormous sum of more
than ^900,000 a year. This George agreed
to, for though he would have liked more, he had
the sense to see that it was impossible to get it.
The Queen had impressed upon him that Walpole
was the only man who could carry such a large
increase through the House of Commons. Pulteney
and other Opposition politicianswere ready to promise
more to gain office, but their promises were nothing
worth, for they had neither the ability nor the power
to carry a large grant through Parliament. The
King therefore took Walpole by the hand, and said
that he had considered the matter, and intended
to continue him in office on the understanding that
he would carry through the Civil List, at the sum
named. He added significantly : " Consider, Sir
Robert, what makes me easy in this matter will
prove for your ease too ; it is for my life it is to be
fixed, and it is for your life ".

Matters thus being settled, the Queen that
night at the drawing-room made known her ap-
proval of Walpole in a characteristic manner. Lady
Walpole had come to court to pay her respects to
the King and Queen, but she could not make her


way to the royal dais, for the lords and ladies turned
their backs on the wife of the fallen Minister (as
they considered him), and refused to yield her place.
By dint of much struggling she managed to reach
the third row, where she was espied by the Queen,
who, beckoning to her, called out : " There, I
am sure, I see a friend ". The crowd in front im-
mediately divided, and Lady Walpole performed
her obeisance in the sight of the wondering court.
The King and Queen smiled, and chatted with her
some little time. All the courtiers noted it, and,
" as I came away," said Lady Walpole afterwards,
" I might have walked over their heads had I
pleased ". Thus Compton's brief dream of author-
ity vanished, and Walpole's tenure in power was
assured. The crowd of placemen who had sur-
rounded Compton transferred their attentions once
more to Walpole, and the former was now as much
deserted as the latter had been. The most
extraordinary part of the whole affair was that,
though Compton's friends, chief among whom were
Mrs. Howard, the Duke of Argyll and Lord
Chesterfield, were plunged into despondency by
his fall, Compton himself heeded little these vicissi-
tudes, and was content to be given, by way of
compensation, a place about the court, the garter,
and a peerage under the title of Earl of Wilmington.
If the man had not been such a fool, he might
almost have passed for a philosopher.

When Parliament met a week later it was seen
by all the world that Walpole retained his old place.


It was Walpole who proposed and carried through
Parliament the bloated Civil List. Such was the
Minister's power that no one in the House of
Commons dared raise his voice against it except
Shippen the Jacobite, who was known as " Down-
right Shippen " for his outspokenness. He had
been sent to the Tower in 1 7 1 7 for proclaiming in
the House of Commons the obvious truth that
George the First " was a stranger to our language
and constitution " ; yet, avowed Jacobite though
Shippen remained, Walpole never repeated this

Online LibraryW. H. (William Henry) WilkinsCaroline, the illustrious queen-consort of George II, and sometime queen-regent; a study of her life and time (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 29)