« ForrigeFortsett »
have yet to mention a statement still more extravagant. After the Prince had legally married the Princess Caroline of Brunswick, he was desirous of renewing his intercourse with Mrs. Fitzherbert, whom her kinsmen regard as his only lawful wife. She, after divers objections, consented, but only provided she obtained the Papal sanction. Nay, they go a step further, and contend that she felt herself bound, by the obligations of her marriage, to suffer a renewal of the intercourse,-in a word, to cohabit with the Prince,-to live in what the Romish law would term a state of bigamy with him, because he had contracted a marriage which that law regarded as bigamy, at least in the Prince. Therefore the application is made to the Pope; and though a most mysterious silence is preserved as to the precise terms both of the application and the response, it is stated in very precise terms that the cohabitation was renewed, because the answer from Rome enjoined it as a consequence of the marriage,illegal in England, and binding in the eye of Rome. We are informed that “members of the Royal Family, both male and female,” urged it upon a principle of duty; that the marriage with Princess Caroline placed Mrs. Fitzherbert in a situation of much difficulty, involving her "own conscience;” that “public scandal might interfere with her engagements” (i. e. her marriage vows); that she resorted to “the highest authorities of her own Church upon a case of such extraordinary intricacy.” Therefore Lord Stourton considers it a case of “extraordinary intricacy," " of much difficulty," --whether a woman, not legally married to a man, and having lived with him when he was single, ought to cohabit with him after he is legally married to another woman still living, and still his lawful wife. To solve this great difficulty, an English priest is sent to Rome, "to lay the case before that tribunal.” Why do not the kinsmen of Mrs. Fitzherbert say plainly what tribunal ? Was it the Pope, or one of his courts? The implication no doubt is, the Pope. But why not fairly and honestly say so? Then comes the result, also wrapt up in vague phrases, but plainly indicating that the Pope had been applied to. “The reply from Rome, in a brief, was favourable to the wishes of the Prince; ” and the cohabitation immediately was renewed. We should have liked to see the brief; but “in a moment of panic she destroyed it, fearful of the consequences during Mr. Percival's administration." Lord Stourton's narrative speaks in direct terms only of permission by the brief; but it is plain that he means it to be inferred, that cohabitation was directed. Mr. Langdale, in express terms, states that "it may have been said to have been enjoined ” (p. 149). Now, the work of this gentleman is announced as undertaken from the duty of defending the author's religion, together with the character of his relative; because, if she acted immorally in respect of a marriage authorized by her Church, the reputation of her religion suffered through her. We put it to any person of ordinary understanding, not being Mrs. Fitzherbert's kinsman and a Roman Catholic, whether, in the first place, the Catholic religion must be supposed to suffer each time that a female Romanist goes astray, or errs in point of doctrine (for we are left wholly in the dark upon which supposition the zealous author proceeds) ; but, secondly, whether it is possible to imagine a heavier charge against the Catholic Church than its directing—but say only its formally and by a written instrument sanctioning-a woman to cohabit with a married man whose mistress she had been, under the illegallyassumed name of wife, before he had contracted a lawful marriage with another, still his lawful wife. It is vain, and it is ridiculous, to disguise the truth under general phrases and sentimental circumlocutions. The laws of this country apply to such a connection the word concubinage at the one period, and adultery at the other. A good deal of this was known in society at the time; and more was generally suspected. We are not aware that, until Mr. Langdale published his book in discharge of his duty towards the memory of his kinswoman and the reputation of his Church, the fact of the cohabitation was ever stated publicly upon unquestionable authority. We are quite certain that the injunction of the Pope, or even his license, never was either stated, or known, or suspected.
But another disclosure is due to the zeal, domestic and religious, of this gentleman; we owe to him the first authoritative statement of the marriage itself. This marriage was very universally supposed to have been solemnized; but the
particulars were never stated upon any authority; and although evidence of it was generally believed to be in existence, very few were aware in what the proof consisted. We have now a distinct account of it, apparently upon sufficient authority; and every one must admit that there are the means of making that evidence forthcoming. We do not say that Mr. Langdale proves the marriage, but he gives the particulars of the proof, and tells us where it
be had. It seems that soon after the death of George IV., his executors, the Duke of Wellington and Sir W. Knighton, and Mrs. Fitzherbert, formally agreed to destroy all letters and papers signed or written by either party, with the exception of five, which Mrs. Fitzherbert required to be set apart. These were, a mortgage on the palace at Brighton, a will of George IV., a letter from him relating to his marriage with her, the certificate of that marriage, signed by the clergyman who performed the ceremony, and a memorandum of Mrs. Fitzherbert attached to a letter of the clergyman. To the certificate the names of her uncle H. Errington, and her brother J. Smythe, had originally been signed as witnesses of the marriage ; but she had cut those names off at their urgent request, in order to save them from the penalties of a præmunire which they had incurred. The great indistinctness which prevails through the writings both of Lord Stourton and Mr. Langdale leaves doubts on the reader's mind as to some particulars. Thus, the list of the papers given in p. 87, signed by Lord Stourton, does not mention the certificate as in the Prince's handwriting; but in p. 122 his narrative so describes it. The narrative also describes a letter written by the Prince as still extant, in which "he thanks God that the witnesses are still living;" and describes another paper, signed and sealed by him, in which he calls her his wife; but no such paper is mentioned in the list. We are therefore left in some uncertainty as to the precise nature of the documents; and can only feel assured that they contain what, if produced, would amount to proof of the secret marriage contracted in 1785. They were all sealed up, moreover, under the seals of the Duke and Sir W. Knighton, Lord Albemarle and Lord Stourton, and lodged with Messrs. Coutts; the seals not to be broken without the knowledge,
which must be understood to imply the permission; of the Duke and Sir William. Lord Stourton denies that their consent was to be necessary before the papers could be inspected; but he denies it faintly (pp. 88, 89). It would further appear from a letter of Lord Albemarle, that the deposit was made by him at the banker's; and that only his own seal and the Duke's were affixed to the parcel. But the deposit was accompanied with a memorandum signed by Lord Stourton, as well as the Duke and Lord Albemarle, and dated 24th October, 1833, that the papers were placed by Mrs. Fitzherbert at the disposal of Lord Albemarle and Lord Stourton, who transferred, as far as he had any right to do so, his control over the papers to Mr. Langdale. But Mr. Langdale justly admits the entire invalidity of this transfer, and Messrs. Coutts regard the control to be in Lord Albemarle alone (p. 54); and the property in the papers may possibly be considered as vested in him and his executor.
But a question might arise between that executor and the representatives of the Duke as George IV.'s surviving executor, or between those parties and the Crown; and supposing that question disposed of, there is a manifest difficulty in the case from the Duke's knowledge, probably his consent, being required to the opening of the parcel by the original agreement between the executors of George IV. and Mrs. Fitzherbert herself. The parties were all so much aware of this circumstance, that when Lord Stourton desired to see the papers after Mrs. Fitzherbert's death in 1837, Lord Albemarle applied to the Duke; and renewed the application afterwards. Some correspondence ensued, and a personal interview took place with the Duke. The result was his very peremptorily refusing his consent, and “protesting most solemnly against opening the packet deposited under the several seals of Lord Albemarle, Lord Stourton, and himself” (p. 104). This was in August, 1841. The Duke intimated that he probably might require the consent of the Sovereign before he allowed the opening of the packet. A letter by Lord Stourton seems to show that he had applied to his Grace to obtain that consent, for, in answer, the Duke says (April, 1842) that he has no office of a political nature, and can only give advice when required. His own refusal is put upon public grounds, as well as on his belief thåt Mrs. Hitzherbert herself would have been most averse to any step being taken which could revive discussion regarding the secret marriage. After the Duke's death, Mr. Langdale applied in 1854 to Lord Albemarle's executor, Mr. E. Keppel, for access to the papers, in order to refute what he considers as the calumny of Lord Holland's Diary. After much correspondence, Mr. Keppel, by the advice of the Duke of Bedford, whom he consulted, and with the concurrence of Sir G. Seymour and Mr. Foster, Mrs. Fitzherbert's executors, refuses the access desired, and assigns as his reason that those papers could throw no light upon the question between Mr. Langdale and Lord Holland's Diary, as they only give evidence of the marriage, which Lord Holland's statement does not dispute. There may be considerable doubt how far this negative could be ascertained without an inspection of the documents. But our present business is with the marriage and its proofs; and we hold it to be quite clear that the Duke of Wellington exercised a sound discretion in refusing his assent to the disclosure of papers which there is every reason to believe would place the existence of the marriage beyond all doubt. At present there may be sufficient proof to satisfy most men's minds that such evidence exists; but there is a great difference between that and the actual production of the evidence.
Now suppose it produced, and that no possibility any longer existed of denying, or of doubting the fact-George IV. had forfeited his right to the Crown, and was no more entitled to exercise the functions of royalty than if he were naturally dead. This is the provision of the Act, one of the most important in the whole Statute Book, and one by virtue of which the Crown is in the reigning family. An absurd and most inconsiderate attempt has sometimes been made to evade this exigency, and show that there was no forfeiture, by stating that the marriage with a Catholic was illegal and void under the Royal Family Marriage Act of 1772. But to this the answer is obvious, that the forfeiture was denounced in order to prevent all attempts, as well as all completed acts of disobedience; and that whoever holds the nullity of the marriage sufficient to save the forfeiture, must be prepared to hold polygamy no offence, since