Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

had arrived and joined her daughter; and after a day and night passed in tears, remonstrances, entreaties, and stipulations against being immured as a state prisoner by her father, the young princess went at last with the duke of York to Carlton House.

The violent proceeding adopted by the regent, and the extremity to which it drove the princess, created an extraordinary sensation. No doubt was or could reasonably be entertained, that the occurrence was an emanation from the domestic quarrel between the prince and princess of Wales. The daughter took part with her mother in the dispute, and, it was understood, saw her clandestinely, in violation of the restrictions of the privy council. It was also said, that the negotiation of a treaty of marriage between the princess Charlotte and the hereditary prince of Orange, so near its conclusion as to be officially announced in Holland, was defeated through the influence of the princess of Wales. Whatever were the motives of the young princess, — whether regard for her mother, whom the prince of Orange was said to have personally slighted, or an attachment to the person who afterwards became her husband, and had come to England in the suite of the allied sovereigns, one fact was certain, that she rejected the prince of Orange, - thereby provoking the displeasure of her father, and thwarting the measures of his government.

Many circumstances conspired to enlist the public indignation against him. The princess Charlotte united the prepossessions of youth with the reputation of a high spirit and generous disposition, and was, at the moment, understood to be in delicate health. She was regarded as the victim of the regent's hatred of her mother. Rumours were abroad of her being under restraint, and deprived of the means of communication with her friends. Her uncle, the duke of Sussex, was denied access to her. On Tuesday, the 19th of July, that prince put the following questions to the ministers of the crown in the House of Lords:- Whether the princess Charlotte, since she had been brought from Connaught Place to Carlton House, was allowed free communication with her friends personally and by letter? Whether she was or not under the restraints of imprisonment? Whether the physicians had not prescribed her sea-bathing in the preceding, as in the present, year?

Whether, now that she was of the full age of sovereignty, it was intended to provide her with a suitable establishment? The meaning of the last question but one was, that she had been deprived of the benefit of sea-bathing when her health required it, lest it might afford her opportunities of communicating more frequently and freely with her mother. Lord Liverpool refused to give any answer, beyond asserting that the prince regent had an absolute right, and the best intentions with respect to his daughter ; and that, in the steps taken by him, he consulted only her happiness, dignity, and morals. The lord chancellor Eldon, playing off one of his theatrical accesses of honesty and pathos, declared, “ That if the prime minister had answered any one of the royal duke's questions, he would never speak to him again.” The duke of Sussex gave notice of a motion on the subject for that day week; but, when the day came, abandoned his motion, as no longer necessary, because the young princess had been seen on horseback in Windsor Park. It was obvious that the duke's conduct was the result of other influences than so feeble' a presumption of her being free from restraint.

The House of Commons volunteered, and the ministers acquiesced in a proposition for raising the income of the princess of Wales to 50,0001. a year. This increase of fortune was accepted by the princess and her friends with coy reluctance and clumsy affectation. To the astonishment of the public, and the consternation of the whigs, it was announced, about the end of July, that the princess of Wales had conveyed to lord Liverpool her wish to go abroad. This put to flight the popular illusions about 66 her attachment to the generous English people," and her unbounded affection for her child. No one was the dupe of her pretence for travelling, that her absence might procure the princess Charlotte more freedom. The public was not only disenchanted of its enthusiasm in her favour, but disgusted with her expending abroad the large income which had been granted to her in contemplation of her residing in Engiand. Her husband and his ministers were delighted to be rid of her on such easy terms; and she sailed very privately from Worthing on the 9th of August.

The eyes of the English people were soon opened to the barrenness of their glory. Their transports of joy subsided to the repose rather of lassitude than contentment. Peace was restored, but without its expected, perhaps exaggerated, blessings. Ireland presented the usual exception to the rest of the United Kingdom. There the popular mind shared neither the exultation of victory, nor the tranquillity by which it was succeeded. Irish Catholic blood was shed freely in the great contest;

and the Irish birth of the general in chief might have flattered the national or provincial vanity of the people; but the Catholics did not raise their chained hands in thanksgiving or triumph; and the duke of Wellington, with an unhappy and habitual dullness to the grace of generous action and emotion, disgusted them by leaving his proxy behind him to continue the civil degradation of thousands of soldiers and officers who had earned for him, with their blood, his fortune, title, and renown. The more intelligent Irish Catholics were influenced by another motive. They saw only the continued rejection of their claims, and confirmation of their bonds, in the great turn of fortune which had placed Europe at the feet of a junta of tyrants, and the ministers of

their tyranny.

The state of agitation which prevailed in Ireland was produced by a particular and curious incident. Lord Castlereagh, who mistook tortuousness for ability, and intriguing for statesmanship, instead of emancipating the Catholics by a direct act of justice, or even of policy, concerted with the pope's chief minister, cardinal Gonsalvi, a manœuvre by which emancipation would be bartered for the poor patronage of the Catholic bishoprics in Ireland. Accordingly cardinal Quarantotti, a high functionary

of the papal see, addressed to the Irish Catholics a rescript, authorising and advising what was called the veto. The Catholics denied the authority, and rejected the advice of this rescript with indignant scorn; and, as if to expose the bungling system and bad faith acted upon in the government of Ireland, insubordination to the see of Rome led to a renewal of the war of meetings, proclamations, evasions, and indictments between the Catholics and the castle. Acts of lawless violence and outrage, the natural consequences of inveterate misgovernment and extreme misery, prevailed in some Irish counties, and were met, as usual, by the insurrection act, a penal statute, framed in a spirit of utter recklessness to human liberty, or legal protection.

Parliament was re-assembled on the 6th of November, and, after three weeks' sitting, adjourned to the 9th of February. No act of great permanent importance was passed during this period. A hostile and vindictive allusion to the war with America, in the speech from the throne, provoked animadversion from lords Grenville and Darnley, who ascribed the successes of the Americans on Lake Champlain, and on the high seas, to the inefficiency of the British Admiralty. Peace, however, was concluded at Ghent, on the 24th of December, and after the Americans had in the meantime somewhat retrieved their military character by the defence of New Orleans, definitively ratified by the president of the United States, on the 17th of the following February.

It is necessary to revert for a moment to the

« ForrigeFortsæt »