Prince Charles's Mother
T HE indications and promises of returning peace and happiness which gave Prince Charles's mother so much animation and hope after the return of her husband from Scotland were all very superficial and fallacious. The real grounds of the quarrel between the king and his Parliament, and of the feelings of alienation and ill will cherished toward the queen, were all, unfortunately, as deep and extensive as ever; and the storm, which lulled treacherously for a little time, broke forth soon afterward anew, with a frightful violence which it was evident that nothing could withstand. This new onset of disaster and calamity was produced in such a way that Henrietta had to reproach herself with being the cause of its coming.
She had often represented to the king that, in her opinion, one main cause of the difficulties he had suffered was that he did not act efficiently and decidedly, and like a man, in putting down the opposition manifested against him on the part of his subjects; and now, soon after his return from Scotland, on some new spirit of disaffection showing itself in Parliament, she urged him to act at once energetically and promptly against it. She proposed to him to take an armed force with him, and proceed boldly to the halls where the Parliament was assembled, and arrest the leaders of the party who were opposed to him. There were five of them who were specially prominent. The queen believed that if these five men were seized and imprisoned in the Tower, the rest would be intimidated and overawed, and the monarch's lost authority and power would be restored again.
The king was persuaded, partly by the dictates of his own judgment, and partly by the urgency of the queen, to make the attempt. The circumstances of this case, so far as the action of the king was concerned in them, are fully related in the history of Charles the First. Here we have only to speak of the queen, who was left in a state of great suspense and anxiety in her palace at Whitehall while her husband was gone on his dangerous mission.
The plan of the king to make this irruption into the great legislative assembly of the nation had been kept, so they supposed, a very profound secret, lest the members whom he was going to arrest should receive warning of their danger and fly. When the time arrived, the king bade Henrietta farewell, saying that she might wait there an hour, and if she received no ill news from him during that time, she might be sure that he had been successful, and that he was once more master of his kingdom. The queen remained in the apartment where the king had left her, looking continually at the watch which she held before her, and counting the minutes impatiently as the hands moved slowly on. She had with her one confidential friend, the Lady Carlisle, who sat with her and seemed to share her solicitude, though she had not been entrusted with the secret. The time passed on. No ill tidings came; and at length the hour fully expired, and Henrietta, able to contain herself no longer, exclaimed with exultation, "Rejoice with me; the hour is gone. From this time my husband is master of his realm. His enemies in Parliament are all arrested before this time, and his kingdom is henceforth his own."
It certainly is possible for kings and queens to have faithful friends, but there are so many motives and inducements to falsehood and treachery in court, that it is not possible, generally, for them to distinguish false friends from true. The Lady Carlisle was a confederate with some of the very men whom Charles had gone to arrest. On receiving this intimation of their danger, she sent immediately to the houses of Parliament, which were very near at hand, and the obnoxious members received warning in time to fly. The hour had indeed elapsed, but the king had met with several unexpected delays, both in his preparations for going, and on his way to the House of Commons, so that when at last he entered, the members were gone. His attempt, however, unsuccessful as it was, evoked a general storm of indignation and anger, producing thus all the exasperation which was to have been expected from the measure, without in any degree accomplishing its end. The poor queen was overwhelmed with confusion and dismay when she learned the result. She had urged her husband forward to an extremely dangerous and desperate measure, and then by her thoughtless indiscretion had completely defeated the end. A universal and utterly uncontrollable excitement burst like a clap of thunder upon the country as this outrage, as they termed it, of the king became known, and the queen was utterly appalled at the extent and magnitude of the mischief she had done.
The mischief was irremediable. The spirit of resentment and indignation which the king's action had aroused, expressed itself in such tumultuous and riotous proceedings as to render the continuance of the royal family in London no longer safe. They accordingly removed up the river to Hampton Court, a famous palace on the Thames, not many miles from the city. There they remained but a very short time. The dangers which beset them were evidently increasing. It was manifest that the king must either give up what he deemed the just rights and prerogatives of the crown, or prepare to maintain them by war. The queen urged him to choose the latter alternative. To raise the means for doing this, she proposed that she should herself leave the country, taking with her, her jewels, and such other articles of great value as could be easily carried away, and by means of them and her personal exertions, raise funds and forces to aid her husband in the approaching struggle.
The king yielded to the necessity which seemed to compel the adoption of this plan. He accordingly set off to accompany Henrietta to the shore. She took with her the young Princess Mary; in fact, the ostensible object of her journey was to convey her to her young husband, the Prince of Orange, in Holland. In such infantile marriages as theirs, it is not customary, though the marriage ceremony be performed, for the wedded pair to live together till they arrive at years a little more mature.
The queen was to embark at Dover. Dover was in those days the great port of egress from England to the Continent. There was, and is still, a great castle on the cliffs to guard the harbor and the town. These cliffs are picturesque and high, falling off abruptly in chalky precipices to the sea. Among them at one place is a sort of dell, by which there is a gradual descent to the water. King Charles stood upon the shore when Henrietta sailed away, watching the ship as it receded from his view, with tears in his eyes. With all the faults, characteristic of her nation, which Henrietta possessed, she was now his best and truest friend, and when she was gone he felt that he was left desolate and alone in the midst of the appalling dangers by which he was environed.
The king went back to Hampton Court. Parliament sent him a request that he would come and reside nearer to the capital, and enjoined upon him particularly not to remove the young Prince of Wales. In the mean time they began to gather together their forces, and to provide munitions of war. The king did the same. He sent the young prince to the western part of the kingdom, and retired himself to the northward, to the city of York, which he made his head-quarters. In a word, both parties prepared for war.
In the mean time, Queen Henrietta was very successful in her attempts to obtain aid for her husband in Holland. Her misfortunes awakened pity, with which, through her beauty, and the graces of her conversation and address, there was mingled a feeling analogous to love. Then, besides, there was something in her spirit of earnest and courageous devotion to her husband in the hours of his calamity that won for her a strong degree of admiration and respect.
There are no efforts which are so efficient and powerful in the accomplishment of their end as those which a faithful wife makes to rescue and save her husband. The heart, generally so timid, seems to be inspired on such occasions with a preternatural courage, and the arm, at other times so feeble and helpless, is nerved with unexpected strength. Every one is ready to second and help such efforts, and she who makes them is surprised at her success, and wonders at the extent and efficiency of the powers which she finds herself so unexpectedly able to wield.
The queen interested all classes in Holland in her plans, and by her personal credit, and the security of her diamonds and rubies, she borrowed large sums of money from the government, from the banks, and from private merchants. The sums which she thus raised amounted to two millions of pounds sterling, equal to nearly ten millions of dollars. While these negotiations were going on she remained in Holland, with her little daughter, the bride, under her care, whose education she was carrying forward all the time with the help of suitable masters; for, though married, Mary was yet a child. The little husband was going on at the same time with his studies too.
Henrietta remained in Holland a year. She expended a part of her money in purchasing military stores and supplies for her husband, and then set sail with them, and with the money money not expended, to join the king. The voyage was a very extraordinary one. A great gale of wind began to blow from the northeast soon after the ships left the port, which increased in violence for nine days, until at length the sea was lashed to such a state of fury that the company lost all hope of ever reaching the land. The queen had with her a large train of attendants, both ladies and gentlemen; and there were also in her suit a number of Catholic priests, who always accompanied her as the chaplains and confessors of her household. These persons had all been extremely sick, and had been tied into their beds on account of the excessive rolling of the ship, and their own exhaustion and helplessness. The danger increased, until at last it became so extremely imminent that all the self-possession of the passengers was entirely gone. In such protracted storms, the surges of the sea strike the ship with terrific force, and vast volumes of water fall heavily upon the decks, threatening instant destruction—the ship plunging awfully after the shock, as if sinking to rise no more. At such moments, the noble ladies who accompanied the queen on this voyage would be overwhelmed with terror, and they filled the cabins with their shrieks of dismay. All this time the queen herself was quiet and composed. She told the ladies not to fear, for "queens of England were never drowned."
At one time, when the storm was at its height, the whole party were entirely overwhelmed with consternation and terror. Two of the ships were engulfed and lost. The queen's company thought that their own was sinking. They came crowding into the cabin where the priests were lying, sick and helpless, and began all together to confess their sins to them, in the Catholic mode, eager in these their last moments, as they supposed, to relieve their consciences in any way from the burdens of guilt which oppressed them. The queen herself did not participate in these fears. She ridiculed the absurd confessions, and rebuked the senseless panic to which the terrified penitents were yielding; and whenever any mitigation of the violence of the gale made it possible to do any thing to divert the minds of her company, she tried to make amusement out of the odd and strange dilemmas in which they were continually placed, and the ludicrous disasters and accidents which were always befalling her servants and officers of state, in their attempts to continue the etiquette and ceremony proper in attendance upon a queen, and from which even the violence of such a storm, and the imminence of such danger, could not excuse them. After a fortnight of danger, terror, and distress, the ships that remained of the little squadron succeeded in getting back to the port from which they had sailed.
The queen, however, did not despair. After a few days of rest and refreshment she set sail again, though it was now in the dead of winter. The result of this second attempt was a prosperous voyage, and the little fleet arrived in due time at Burlington, on the English coast, where the queen landed her money and her stores. She had, however, after all, a very narrow escape, for she was very closely pursued on her voyage by an English squadron. They came into port the night after she had landed, and the next morning she was awakened by the crashing of cannon balls and the bursting of bomb shells in the houses around her, and found, on hastily rising, that the village was under a bombardment from the ships of her enemies. She hurried on some sort of dress, and sallied forth with her attendants to escape into the fields. This incident is related fully in the history of her husband, Charles the First; but there is one circumstance, not there detailed, which illustrates very strikingly that strange combination of mental greatness and energy worthy of a queen, with a simplicity of affections and tastes which we should scarcely expect in a child, that marked Henrietta's character. She had a small dog. Its name was Mike. They say it was an ugly little animal, too, in all eyes but her own. This dog accompanied her on the voyage, and landed with her on the English shore. On the morning, however, when she fled from her bed to escape from the balls and bomb shells of the English ships, she recollected, after getting a short distance from the house, that Mike was left behind. She immediately returned, ran up to her chamber again, seized Mike, who was sleeping unconsciously upon her bed, and bore the little pet away from the scene of ruin which the balls and bursting shells were making, all astonished, no doubt, at so hurried and violent an abduction. The party gained the open fields, and seeking shelter in a dry trench, which ran along the margin of a field, they crouched there together till the commander of the ships was tired of firing.
The queen's destination was York, the great and ancient capital of the north of England. York was the head-quarters of King Charles's army, though he himself was not there at this time. As soon as news of the queen's arrival reached York, the general in command there sent down to the coast a detachment of two thousand men to escort the heroine, and the stores and money which she had brought, to her husband's capital. At the head of this force she marched in triumph across the country, with a long train of ordnance and baggage-wagons loaded with supplies. There were six pieces of cannon, and two hundred and fifty wagons loaded with the money which she had obtained in Holland. The whole country was excited with enthusiasm at the spectacle. The enthusiasm was increased by the air and bearing of the queen, who, proud and happy at this successful result of all her dangers and toils, rode on horseback at the head of her army like a general, spoke frankly to the soldiers, sought no shelter from the sun and rain, and ate her meals, like the rest of the army, in a bivouac in the open field. She had been the means, in some degree, of leading the king into his difficulties, by the too vigorous measures she had urged him to take in the case of the attempted parliamentary arrest. She seems to have been determined make that spirit of resolution and energy in her, which caused the mischief then, atone for it by its efficient usefulness now. She stopped on her march to summon and take a town, which had been hitherto in the hands of her husband's enemies, adding thus the glory of a conquest to the other triumphs of the day.
In fact, the queen's heart was filled with pride and pleasure at this conclusion of her enterprise, as is very manifest from the frequent letters which she wrote to her husband at the time. The king's cause revived. They gradually approached each other in the operations which they severally conducted, until at last the king, after a great and successful battle, set off at the head of a large escort to come and meet his wife. They met in the vale of Keynton, near Edgehill, which is on the southern borders of Warwickshire, near the center of the island. The meeting was, of course, one of the greatest excitement and pleasure. Charles praised the high courage and faithful affection of his devoted wife, and she was filled with happiness in enjoying the love and gratitude of her husband.
The pressure of outward misfortune and calamity has always the same strong tendency as was manifest in this case to invigorate anew all the ties of conjugal and domestic affection, and thus to create the happiness which it seems to the world to destroy. In the early part of Charles and Henrietta's married life, while every thing external went smoothly and prosperously with them, they were very far from being happy. They destroyed each other's peace by petty disputes and jars about things of little consequence, in which they each had scarcely any interest except a desire to carry the point and triumph over the other. King Charles himself preserved a record of one of these disputes. The queen had received, at the time of her marriage, certain estates, consisting of houses and lands, the income of which was to be at her disposal, and she wished to appoint certain treasurers to take charge of this property. She had made out a list of these officers in consultation with her mother. She gave this list to Charles one night, after he was himself in bed. He said he would look at it in the morning, but that she must remember that, by the marriage treaty, he was to appoint those officers. She said, in reply, that a part of those whom she had named were English. The king said that he would look at the paper in the morning, and such of the English names as he approved he would confirm, but that he could not appoint any Frenchmen. The queen answered that she and her mother had selected the men whom she had named, and she would not have any body else. Charles rejoined that the business was not either in her power or her mother's, and if she relied on such an influence to effect her wishes, he would not appoint any body that she recommended. The queen was very much hurt at this, and began to be angry. She said that if she could not put in whom she chose, to have the care of her property, she would not have any such property. He might take back her houses and lands, and allow her what he pleased in money in its stead. Charles replied by telling her to remember whom she was speaking to; that he could not be treated in that manner; and then the queen, giving way to lamentations and tears, said she was wretched and miserable; every thing that she wanted was denied her, and whatever she recommended was refused on the very account of her recommendation. Charles tried to speak, but she would not hear; she went on with her lamentations and complaints, interrupted only by her own sobs of passion and grief.
The reader may perhaps imagine that this must have been an extreme and unusual instance of dissension between this royal pair; but it was not. Cases of far greater excitement and violence sometimes occurred. The French servants and attendants, whom the queen very naturally preferred, and upon whom the king was as naturally inclined to look with suspicion and ill will, were a continual source of disagreement between them. At last, one afternoon, the king, happening to come into that part of the palace at Whitehall where the queen's apartments were situated, and which was called "the queen's side", found there a number of her gentlemen and lady attendants in a great frolic, capering and dancing in a way which the gay Frenchmen probably considered nothing extraordinary, but which King Charles regarded as very irreverent and unsuitable conduct to be witnessed in the presence of an English queen. He was very much displeased. He advanced to Henrietta, took her by the arm, conducted her sternly to his own side of the palace, brought her into one of his own apartments, and locked the door. He then sent an officer to direct all the French servants and attendants in the queen's apartments to leave the palace immediately, and repair to Somerset House, which was not far distant, and remain there till they received further orders. The officer executed these commands in a very rough manner. The French women shrieked and cried, and filled the court yard of the palace with their clamor; but the officer paid no regard to this noise. He turned them all out of the apartments, and locked the doors after them.
The queen was rendered quite frantic with vexation and rage at these proceedings. She flew to the windows to see and to bid farewell to her friends, and to offer them expressions of her sympathy. The king pulled her away, telling her to be quiet and submit, for he was determined that they should go. The queen was determined that she would not submit. She attempted to open the windows; the king held them down. Excited now to a perfect phrensy in the struggle, she began to break out the panes with her fist, while Charles exerted all his force to restrain and confine her, by grasping her wrists and endeavoring to force her away. What a contrast between the low and sordid selfishness and jealousy evinced in such dissensions as these, and the lofty and heroic devotedness and fidelity which this wife afterward evinced for her husband in the harassing cares, the stormy voyages, and the martial exposures and fatigues which she endured for his sake! And yet, notwithstanding this great apparent contrast, and the wide difference in the estimation which mankind form of the conduct of the actor in these different scenes, still we can see that it is, after all, the impulse of the same lofty and indomitable spirit which acted in both. The soul itself of the queen was not altered, nor even the character of her action. The change was in the object and aim. In the one case she was contending against the authority of a husband, to gain petty and useless victories in domestic strife; in the other, the same spirit and energy were expended in encountering the storms and tempests of outward adversity to sustain her husband and protect her children. Thus the change was a change of circumstances rather than of character.
The change was, however, none the less important on that account in its influence on the king. It restored to him the affection and sympathy of his wife, and filled his heart with inward happiness. It was a joyous change to him, though it was produced by sufferings and sorrows; for it was the very pressure of outward calamity that made his wife his friend again, and restored his domestic peace. In how many thousand instances is the same effect produced in a still more striking manner, though on a less conspicuous stage, than in the case of this royal pair! And how many thousands of outwardly prosperous families there are, from which domestic peace and happiness are gone, and nothing but the pressure from without of affliction or calamity can ever restore them!
In consequence, in a great measure, of Henrietta's efficient help, the king's affairs greatly improved, and, for a time, it seemed as if he would gain an ultimate and final victory over his enemies, and recover his lost dominion. He advanced to Oxford, and made his head quarters there, and commenced the preparations for once more getting possession of the palaces and fortresses of London. He called together a Parliament at Oxford; some members came, and were regularly organized in the two houses of Lords and Commons, while the rest remained at London and continued their sittings there. Thus there were two governments, two Parliaments, and two capitals in England, and the whole realm was rent and distracted by the respective claims of these contending powers over the allegiance of the subjects and the government of the realm.