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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 51

Chapter X. — Dutch and German Royalty

page 82

Chapter X.

Dutch and German Royalty

Whence thinkest thou kings and parasites arose?
Whence that unnatural line of drones, who heap
Toil and unvanquishable penury
On those who build their palaces and bring
Their daily bread? From vice—black, loathsome, vice;
From rapine, madness, treachery and wrong;
From all that genders misery, and makes
Of earth this thorny wilderness; from lust,
Revenge, and murder.

William and Mary (1689—1702).

The little knot of plotting aristocrats and ecclesiastics who seated William and Mary on the throne in place of James II. saved England from unlimited monarchy and compulsory Romanism. For these evils they substituted unlimited Oligarchy, Continental Wars, Standing Armies, and the National Debt. They sliced down the royal prerogative, but divided the pieces carefully among themselves. Within the last thirty-three years our dukes, earls, and marquises, with their relatives, according to the "Financial Reform Almanack," have looted the Exchequer of more than sixty-six millions sterling! It is for such adequate reasons as these that the calling to the throne of Dutch William in 1688 has been styled "the glorious Revolution." For the aristocracy it was indeed a glorious revolution.

As for Dutch William himself, the praises that have been heaped on him by Whig historians like Macaulay are almost ludicrously overdone. His body was weak and his mind devoid of culture. With a pious, Calvinistic creed, he was as much addicted to wine and women as his feeble health page 83 would permit. His temper was sullen and despotic. If he relinquished any attribute of kingship, it was not his fault. But having no child to succeed him he submitted to successive limitations of his power in exchange for English gold and English blood, which he caused to flow like water in his Grand Alliance and Spanish Succession Wars. The national debt he raised from one million to more than twenty-one millions. As a general he was below mediocrity.

Macaulay has striven to free William's memory from the awful guilt of the massacre of Glencoe, but without success. The extermination warrant was signed by the king at top and bottom, as if purposely to emphasise the inhuman mandate. The chief actors were all promoted.

The East India Company wanted a new charter, and in order to procure it, bribed right and left. £10,000, it was declared, were traced to the king himself.

A commission appointed in 1698 to enquire into the grant of forfeited estates in Ireland reported that 1,060,000 acres, worth £211,623 per annum, had been confiscated since 1689. The grantees were for the most part foreign favourites whom the king loaded with dignities. Bentinck was made Earl of Portland, Zuleisten Earl of Rochford, Schomberg Duke of Schomberg, Auverquerque Earl of Grantham, Keppel Earl of Albermarie, Ginkill Earl of Athlone, and Ruvigny Earl of Galway. But worst of all was the gift by this dutiful nephew and son-in-law of James's private estates, consisting of 95,000 acres, worth £26,000 per annum, to one of his (William's) mistresses, Elizabeth Villiers, Duchess of Orkney. Parliament insisted on resuming these forfeitures, and told the king to his face he was a dishonourable man.

On several occasions he threatened to resign, and it would have been well for England if Parliament had taken him at his word. On the flight of James the country might have become a republic, and saved itself from an endless chain of miseries; but the idea of self-government is always the last that occurs to Englishmen. They never seem to suspect themselves capable of such a thing. Vult populus decipi et decipiatur.

While busy planning on a gigantic scale further waste of English blood and treasure in the War of the Spanish Succession, William died in 1702. Mary had preceded him.

page 84

Anne (1702—1714).

William and Mary were succeeded by James's younger daughter, Anne. Anne reigned, but certainly did not govern, for thirteen years. She was, as the late Earl of Beaconsfield described Queen Victoria, "physically and morally incapable of government." She was physically lethargic, and mentally imbecile. Of her husband, Prince George of Denmark, Charles II. said, "I have tried Prince George drunk, and I have tried him sober, but drunk or sober there is nothing in him." They were a well-matched couple.

For the better part of the reign the de facts sovereigns of England were John Churchill and Sarah Jennings, otherwise Duke and Duchess of Marlborough. It is difficult to say whether William's defeats or Marlborough's famous victories were the more disastrous to all concerned. "What they fought each other for," no one yet has been able to "make out." Eventually the duke's enemies got him convicted of peculation—theft is the Saxon word—and dismissed from his command. He was, perhaps, the greatest of English generals, yet, strange to say, he could not have passed the fifth standard in a Board School to save his life.

George I. (1714—1727.)

To Anne succeeded George I., Elector of Hanover, the first of the ignoble Guelphs. He could speak no English, and his ministers, Carteret excepted, could speak no German. Walpole had to use the medium of dog Latin in his communications with his august sovereign. He surrounded himself with Germans. "The very dogs in England's Court," according to the Scottish Jacobite song," they bark and howl in German." The king admonished his retinue, from mistress to cook, to lay hold of everything they could get, lest their time among so fickle a people as the English should be short. "The German women plundered," says Thackeray, "the German secretaries plundered, the German cooks and attendants plundered; even Mustapha and Mahomet, the German negroes, had a share of the booty." "Coming," says Lord Mahon, "from a poor electorate, a flight of hungry Hanoverians, like so many famished vultures, fell with keen eyes and bended talons on the fruitful soil of England." And page 85 still, alas! they come, Where the carrion is, there the Teutonic vultures are gathered together.

In his own petty principality George had been accustomed to sell his subjects as mercenary soldiers at so many ducats per head. In England such things could not be done with impunity; consequently the king drew unfavourable comparisons between the two countries, and never remained a moment longer in London than he could help. He appropriated estates left to others under the wills of his wife and his father-in-law by the simple process of burning the obnoxious testaments. In England this offence was then punishable by hanging, and it is quite likely that George signed a few death-warrants as a lesson to such transgressors as himself.

As a husband and as a father his relations were simply brutal. His wife he immured in a dungeon at the age of twenty-eight for a suspected intrigue with Count Konigsmark. There she remained till she was sixty; and when her son, afterwards George II., sought to visit her, he was arrested by his father, and narrowly escaped with his life. Konigsmark, by the king's order, was brutally murdered. At a later date George deprived his son and daughter-in-law of the custody of their own children, and drove them with ignominy from St. James's Palace.

George I. literally kept a seraglio, with the Oriental accessories of two negro eunuchs, Mustapha and Mahomet. Among the host of his painted women were Frau von Kilmansegge (Countess of Darlington), Frau von Schulenberg (Duchess of Kendal), the Countess of Platen, and the two sisters, Elizabeth and Melusina, of the murdered Konigsmark. No such ugly and rapacious harpies had ever been seen or heard of in England. The Duchess of Kendal, being tall and lean, was popularly known as "Giraffe;" while the Countess of Darlington, from her enormous dimensions, was named "the Elephant." In describing George's predilections, Chesterfield went straight to the point—"No woman came amiss to him, if she were only very willing and very fat."

And to such courtesans, ministers and courtiers had humbly to bow if they desired either title, pension, or place. To bribes they were always open. Of the "South Sea Bill" promotion money, no less than £30,000 were traced to their unhallowed coffers. "A train of the deepest villany and page 86 fraud with which hell ever contrived to ruin a nation," was the verdict of a Select Committee of the House of Commons on these corruptions.

The subsidies granted by Parliament for the defence or augmentation of George's Hanoverian Dominions were enormous. While the Englishman and the Hanoverian hunted together, it was invariably the Hanoverian that got the turkey and the Englishman the crow.

George's death, it is said, happened in this wise. His long imprisoned queen predeceased him by a few months, but before leaving this world she wrote a letter to her royal spouse in which she protested her innocence, and summoned him to meet her before the tribunal of God within a year and a day. This disquieting epistle a faithful hand placed in his coach as he was entering Germany in the summer of 1714. On reading it he was seized with a convulsion from which he never recovered.

George II. (1727—1760.)

George the First was succeeded by George the Second of our stock of "wee wee German lairdies." He can hardly be regarded as much of an improvement on his father, who, by the way, never, except for State reasons, acknowledged the paternity. He commenced by unceremoniously making away with his father's will. There was, however, a troublesome duplicate in the hands of the Duke of Brunswick, who had to be heavily bribed to give it up. Needless to say the British tax-payer had to pay the bribe. Macaulay thus comprehensively characterises him:—"Not one magnanimous or humane action is recorded of him, but many instances of meanness and of a harshness which, but for the strong constitutional restraints under which he was placed, might have made the misery of his people."

During his reign the nation was never done paying his debts, subsidising his continental allies, and fighting in his Hanoverian quarrels. His allies he changed as often as caprice or the supposed interests of Hanover required. The national debt he more than doubled, raising it to £146,000,000.

The morality of his court was equally incredible and indescribable. Queen Caroline, a woman of bad heart, but mas- page 87 culine head, not merely tolerated the presence of his concubines, but even at times acted as his procuress. His dutiful daughter advocated a beneficial change of mistress from Lady Suffolk, who had become stale; while, to improve the royal temper, Walpole admonished the queen to bring him in contact with pretty Lady Tankerville, "it being impossible that it should be otherwise, since the king had tasted better things," i.e., than Caroline herself.

Both king and queen hated their hopeful son and heir, Frederick, Prince of Wales, father of George III., with undying rancour. "My dear lord," said Caroline, to Lord Harvey, "I will give it you under my hand, if you are in any fear of my relapsing, that my dear first-born is the greatest ass, and the greatest liar, and the greatest canaille, and the greatest beast in the whole world, and that I heartily wish he were out of it." Thus spoke a loving royal mother! Her wish was gratified. Frederick preceeded his father to the grave.

But of all the death-bed scenes on record, that of Queen Caroline is, perhaps, the most grotesque and suggestive of the order of moral ideas engendered by royalty. The king blubbered freely, alternately praising his wife's virtues and his own. "You should marry again," moaned the dying woman. "Non, j'aurai des maîtresses (No, I will have mistresses), sighed the Defender of the Faith. "Cela n'empêche pas" (That is no obstacle), faintly articulated Caroline, and passed, let us hope in charity, into that better land, "where," according to stern republican George Buchanan, "few kings dare enter."

With exemplary fidelity the inconsolable sovereign persevered with maîtresses, Ladies Walmoden, Yarmouth, and others, to the last. Truly if ever there was, as Frederick's mother called him, an absolute canaille and beast in this world, it was the second of the illustrious house of Guelph.