Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

“ to require from them, that they should lay before your Majesty a detailed and “ circumstantial examination and discussion of the various arguments and allega“tions contained in the letter submitted to your Majesty, by the Law Advisers “ of the Princess of Wales. And they beg leave, with all humility, to represent " to your Majesty that the laws and constitution of their country have not placed " them in a situation in which they can conclusively pronounce on any question “ of guilt or innocence affecting any of your Majesty's subjects, much less one “ of your Majesty's Royal Family. They have indeed no power or authority “ whatever to enter on such a course of inquiry as could alone lead to any final “ results of such a nature. The main question on which they had conceived “theinselves called upon by their duty to submit their advice to your Majesty " was this,-Whether the circumstances which had, by your Majesty's commands, “ been brought before them, were of a nature to induce your Majesty to order

any further steps to be taken upon them by your Majesty's Government? And “on this point they humbly submit to your Majesty that the advice which they “offered was clear and unequivocal. Your Majesty has since been pleased fur“ther to require that they should submit to your Majesty their opinions as to the "answer to be given by your Majesty to the request contained in the Princess's “ letter, and as to the manner in which that answer should be communicated to “Her Royal Highness. They have, therefore, in dutiful obedience to your Ma

jesty's commands, proceeded to re-consider the whole of the subject, in this new “ view of it; and after much deliberation, they have agreed -humbly to recom“mend to your Majesty the draft of a Message, which, if approved by your Ma. " jesty, they would humbly suggest your Majesty might send to Her Royal High

ness through the Lord Chancellor. Having before humbly submitted to your “ Majesty their opinion, that the facts of the case did not warrant their advising " that any further steps should be taken upon it by your Majesty's Government, " they have not thought it necessary to advise your Majesty any longer to decline " receiving the Princess into your Royal presence. But the result of the whole casc “ does, in their judgment, render it indispensable that your Majesty should, by a " serious admonition, convey to Her Royal Highness your Majesty's expectation " that Her Royal Highness should be more circumspect in her future conduct; and

they trust that in the terms in which they have advised, that such aılmonition “should be conveyed, your Majesty will not be of opinion, on a full consideration “ of the evidence and answer, that they can be considered as haring at all ex“ceeded the necessity of the case, as arising out of the last reference which your “ Majesty has been pleased to make to thein.”

In this Minute of the Cabinet there are evident marks of timidity. At every period you see the hesitation of the parties from whom it came. It was not till nearly four months, you will perceive, after the date of the Princess's letter of defence, that they made this Minute; and, you will perceive, too, that, in the meanwhile, the Princess had written, on the 8th of December, 1806, another letter to the King, urging a speedy decision on her case. She had manifestly the strong ground, and the cabinet were puzzled beyond all description.

The King, agreeably to the advice of his cabinet, sent a message to the Princess, through the Lord Chancellor, Erskine, containing the admonition, recommended in the Minute of Cabinet above inserted This message was sent on the 28th of January, 1807. Dates must now be strictly attended to. The Princess, upon receiving this message, immediately wrote to the King, intimating to him, that she would wait upon him at Windsor, on the Monday following. The King, the moment he received her letter, wrote back, that he preferred receiving her in London, “ upon a day subsequent to the ensuing week.To this letter the Prin. cess returned no answer, and waited, of course, to hear from the King, respecting the time for her reception, when he should come to London. All these letters, you will bear in mind, make part of THE BOOK, and will appear in my next Number.

Thus, then, every thing appeared to be settled at last, The Princess

had obtained her great object : that is to say, her re-admission to Court; and here, perhaps, the whole affair would have ended, and the world never have been much the wiser for what had passed. But, now, just when the Princess was about to be received at Court, all the charges against her having been shown to be false ; just as the King was about to receive her back into his presence and thus to proclaim her innocence to the world, just as her sufferings of almost a ar were about to be put an end to, and she was anxiously expecting, every hour, a message from the King appointing the time for her waiting upon him ; just then, all was put a stop to, and the King acquainted ber, that he had been requested to suspend any further steps in the business ! And by whom, think you, was this request made ? Why, BY THE PRINCE OF WALES HIMSELF! The Prince had, as the King informed the Princess on the 10th of February, 1807, made a formal request to him, to suspend all further steps; that is to say, to put off receiving the Princess, till...... till when, think you? Why, till he (the Prince) should be enabled to submit to the King a statement which he proposed to make to him upon the papers relating to the Princess's defence, after consulting with his own lawyers!

It was now that the serious work began. It was now that the advisers of the Princess began to change the tone of her letters, and, from the plaintive to burst forth into the indignant Her Royal Highness answered the king's letter on the 12th of February, 1807, intimating her design to represent to liiin in another letter the various grounds on which she felt ibe hardship of her case, which was done in a letter dated the 16th of February, 1807, in a most able manner. This is the document, which, above all the rest, is worthy of your attention. Perceval was, I dare say, the sole author of it, and it docs infinite honour to him as man of talents. Whether for reasoning, language, or force, I never read any thing to surpass this letter. The reasoning is clear as the brook and strong as the torrent; the language is dignified while the feelings it expresses are indignant; and, in sliort, it makes out such a case, it presents such a picture, that I no longer am surprised at the pains which were afterwards taken to conciliate iis author and to keep it from the eye of the world. Who could have been the Prince's adrisers upon this occasion ; who could have been the cause of drawing forth this terrible letter I presume not to say ; but, certainly there never existed in the world a man exposed to the advice of more indiscreet or more faithless friends.

At the close of this letter (and now, as the plot thickens, you must pay close attention to dates); at the close of this letter, which, you will bear in mind, was dated on the 16th of February, the Princess, for the first time, THREATENS AN APPEAL TO THE PUBLIC, unless she be speedily received at Court, and also allowed some suitable establishment in some one of the Royal Palaces, if not in Carlton House. To this letter, however, she received no answer; and, on the 5th of March, which was on a Thursday, she wrote to the King to say, that, unless her rcquests were granted, the publication would not be with held beyond the next Monday, which would have been on the 9th of March, 1807. The publication did not appear, but Mr. Perceval was Chancellor of the Exchequer in less than fifteen days from thut time!

We all remember how sudden, how surprising, how unaccountable, that change was. The cause was stated to be the Catholic Bill; bat, at the time, all men expressed their wonder that that cause should have been attended with such an effect. The Bill had been, by the Whig ministry, introduced into Parliament with the understood approbation of the King; and the Whigs, clinging to place, had withdrawn the Bill, upon some objection being started on the part of the King But this would not do ; the King insisted upon their signing a promise that they would never mention such a Bill to him again. This they could not do without ensuring their destruction as ministers. Upon this ground, therefore, they were turned out, as all the world thought; and away went this “ most thinking nation" to a new election, bawling out bigotry on one side, and no popery on the other !

But, you see, my friend, that there really appears to have been no choice left to the King. He, very likely, had sincere scruples as to the Catholic Bill, and had, in some sort, had it forced upon him ; and, that being the case, he had a right to make the Bill the ground of the dismis. sion of his ministers ; but, that the case of the Princess of Wales would have produced the same effect, if the Bill had not existed, there can, I think, not be the smallest doubt. In short, there appears to have been no other way of getting rid of a thing, which must have operated most injuriously in the opinions of the world to one, at least, of the parties concerned ; and, I think, you will agree with me, that His Majesty, in this case, acted the part of a prudent man, and of a kind and considerate father. He had read all the documents, and especially the famous letter of the Princess on the 16th of February; and he saw the consequence of a publication of those documents; therefore, he took, as you will see, the effectual means of preventing that publication. If as much good sense had lately prevailed, we should not now have these documents to make our remarks on.

The Whig ministry being removed, the four Lords and Lord Moira, and all those who were called the Prince's friends, being out of the Ca. binet and out of place, there remained no longer any obstacle to the receiving of the Princess at Court; and, accordingly, on the 21st of April, 1807, the following Minutes of Council were laid before the King, as a prelude to that slep:

“ MINUTE OF THE COUNCIL, APRIL 21, 1807.

PRESENT,

The Lord Chancellor (Eldon)

The Earl of Bathurst
The Lord President (Camden) Viscount Castlereagh
The Lord Privy Seal (Westmoreland) Lord Mulgrave
The Duke of Portland

Mr. Secretary Canning
The Earl of Chatham

Lord Hawkesbury.

“ Your Majesty's confidential servants have, in obedience to your Majesty's “ commands, most attentively considered the original Charges and Report, the “ Minutes of Evidence, and all the other papers subinitted to the consideration “ of your Majesty, on the subject of those charges against Her Royal Highness “ the Princess of Wales.

" In the stage in which this business is brought under their consideration, “ they do not feel themselves called upon to give any opinion as to the proceed“ ing itself, or to the mode of investigation in which it has been thought proper “ to conduct it. But adverting to the advice, which is stated by His Royal High“ ness the Prince of Wales to have directed his conduct, your Majesty's con. “ fidential servants are anxious to impress upon your Majesty their conviction " that His Royal Highness could not, under such advice, consistently with his " public duty, have done otherwise than lay before your Majesty the Statement " and Examinations which were submitted to him upon this subject.

“ After the most deliberate consideration, however, of the evidence which has " been brought before the Commissioners, and of the previous examinations, as " well as of the answer and observations which have been submitted to your “ Majesty upon them, they feel it necessary to declare their decided concurrence “ in the clear and unanimous opinion of the Commissioners, confirmed by that “ of all your Majesty's late confidential servants, that the two main charges al“ leged against Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales, of pregnancy and " delivery, are completely disproved; and they further submit to your Majesty, “ their unanimous opinion, that all the other particulars of conduct brought in " accusation against Her Royal Highness, to which the character of criminality " can be ascribed, are either satisfactorily contradicted, or rest upon eridence of " such a nature, and which was given under such circumstances, as render it, in “ the judgment of your Majesty's contidential servants, undeserving of credit.

" Your Majesty's confidential servants, therefore, concurring in that part of “ the opinion of your late servants, as stated in their Minute of the 25th of “ January, that there is no longer any necessity for your Majesty being advised " to decline receiving the Princess into your Royal presence, humbly submit to

your Majesty, that it is essentially necessary, in justice to Her Royal Highness, " and for the honour and interests of your Majesty's Illustrious Family, that Her " Royal Highness the Princess of Wales, should be admitted with as little delay as possible, into your Majesty's Royal Presence, and that she should be received in a

manner due to her rank and station, in your Majesty's Court and Family.

" Your Majesty's confidential servants also beg leave to submit to your Ma“ jesty, that considering that it may be necessary that your Majesty's Govern. “ment should possess the means of referring to the state of this transaction, it “ is of the utmost importance that these documents, demonstrating the ground " on which your Majesty has proceeded, should be preserved in safe custody; " and that for that purpose the originals, or authentic copies of all these papers, " should be sealed up and deposited in the office of your Majesty's Principal

Secretary of State.'

" CABINET MINUTE, APRIL, 21, 1807.

PRESENT,
The Lord Chancellor

The Earl of Bathurst
The Lord President

Viscount Castlereagh
The Lord Privy Seal Lord Mulgrave
The Duke of Portland Mr. Secretary Canning

The Earl of Chatham Lord Hawkesbury. “ Your Majesty's Confidential Servants think it necessary to notice, in a se

parate Minute, the request of Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales, that “ for her more convenient attendance at your Majesty's Court, some apartment “ should be allotted to her in one of the royal palaces; although it appears to

your Majesty's Confidential Servants that some arrangement in this respect

may be supposed naturally to arise out of the present state of this transaction, “ yet they humbly conceive that this is a subject so purely of a private and do“ mestic nature, that your Majesty would not expect from them any particular " advice respecting it.”

Thus ended the matter at that time. The Princess was, soon afterwards, received at Court with great splendour, and she had apartments allotted to her in Kensington Palace, which is situated at but about two miles from St. James's.

Up to this moment the conduct of Perceval seems to have been perfectly honourable. He might possibly have ambitious views from the beginning. He might possibly think that one way to power was through the gratitude of the Princess, at some distant day; but, in the outset of the business, he could hardly have entertained an idea of things taking the sudden turn that they took in the month of March, 1807 : indeed it was impossible ; for how was he, who had written the Princess's defence, and so clearly seen her innocence, to foresee, or to suppose it possible, that any obstacles would be opposed to her reception, even after an admonition had been given hur 9 Up to this period, therefore, the conduct of Perceval appears to have been truly honourable; he had proved himself to be a wise adviser, and a most able and zealous advocate. He found the Princess banished from the Court and the royal palaces, and loaded with numerous imputations. He cleared her of them all, and restored her to that situation which was the object of her prayer.

We are now to view his subsequent conduct towards her, and herein it is that he was, as appears to me, wanting in his duty both to the Princa and Princess. He and others, had contrived, by one means and another, to suppress THE BOOK, which was ready for publication when he was made minister. But, the Princess had been received at Court, she was inhabiting a palace, and the affair was at rest. There was no blame, therefore, in the suppression ; but when the REGENCY came to be established in the person of the Prince ; when the husband came to be exalted to the rank, the power, and splendour a King, how could Perceval reconcile it with the letter of 16th February, 1807, and with the Minute of the 21st of April in that year, to leave the Princess of Wales, the wife of the Regent, in her former comparatively obscure and penurious state? How came he to do this ; and that, too, at a time when he was so amply providing for the splendour and power of the Queen, and was granting the public money for the making of new establishments for the maiden sisters of the Regent ?

Alas! We are now to look back to that wonderful event, the choosing of Perceval for minister by the Regent, the choosing of the author of the letter of 16th February, 1806, to the exclusion of those who had always been called the Prince's Friends. The Prince was certainly advised by prudent men, when he took this step; for he avoided a certain evil at the expense of no certain, and, indeed, of no probable, good that a change of ministry would have effected. But, I blame Perceval for keeping his place without stipulating for, or without doing, something in behalf of the Princess; and, it was his failing to do this, which has, step by step, finally led to the present disclosure. He had, indeed, done much for the Princess; he had cleared her of every imputation ; he had restored her to the Court; he had replaced her in a palace; but, her husband being now exalted, her non-exaltation operated with regard to her character in nearly the same way as her exclusion from Court had formerly operated. Therefore she had a new ground of complaint; the imputation against her honour was revived, not in words, but in the want of acts, more especially as her defender was now placed on the highest pinnacle of power.

In this light the Princess herself, from her last letter to the Prince, seeing to have viewed the matter; for, she there says, that she has waited with patience, since the establishment of the Regency, to see what would be done. I, for my part, strongly urged, at the time, the propriety of giving her an establishment suitable to the new rank of her husband, and especially the means of enabling her to hold a Court. This was not listened to. The ministers seem to have thought it best to leave her in comparative obscurity; but, her own spirit and her consciousness of innocence, have defeated their views. Still, however, all might have remained undisturbed, if a free intercourse had been permitted between

« ForrigeFortsett »