The Project Gutenberg EBook of Odd Bits of History, by Henry W. Wolff This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org/license Title: Odd Bits of History Being Short Chapters Intended to Fill Some Blanks Author: Henry W. Wolff Release Date: May 14, 2012 [EBook #39696] Language: English Character set encoding: UTF-8 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK ODD BITS OF HISTORY *** Produced by The Online Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net (This file was produced from images generously made available by The Internet Archive.)
ODD BITS OF HISTORY
SHORT CHAPTERS INTENDED TO FILL SOME BLANKS
HENRY W. WOLFF
LONGMANS, GREEN & Co.
AND NEW-YORK: 15 EAST 16th STREET
(All rights reserved.)
The chapters composing this book appeared originally in the shape of review articles. I owe acknowledgments to the Editors of Blackwood's Magazine, the National Review and the Gentleman's Magazine for the permission kindly accorded me to republish them.
To my regret I find, on receiving the clean sheets, that pressure of time and a rather troublesome nervous affection of one eye have led me to overlook a few printer's errors, such as: p. 70, occassion for occasion; p. 137, Fuensaldana for Fuensaldaña; p. 253, Nicephoras Phorcas for Nicephorus Phocas; p. 267, Polydore Virgil for Polydore Vergil. The misprints will in every instance, I believe, explain themselves.
H. W. W.
|I.||THE PRETENDER AT BAR-LE-DUC||1|
|II.||RICHARD DE LA POLE, "WHITE ROSE"||58|
|III.||THE EARLY ANCESTORS OF OUR QUEEN||91|
|IV.||ABOUT A PORTRAIT AT WINDSOR||120|
|V.||THE REMNANT OF A GREAT RACE||145|
|VI.||VOLTAIRE AND KING STANISLAS||181|
|VII.||THE PRINCE CONSORT'S UNIVERSITY DAYS||219|
|VIII.||SOMETHING ABOUT BEER||248|
"The Pretender Charles Edward resided here three years in a house which is still pointed out." So you may read in "Murray," under the head of "Bar-le-Duc." The information, which is apt to suggest inquiry to those who, like myself, are fond of picking up a little bit of neglected history on their travels, is, as it happens, not altogether accurate. For, in the first place, the "Pretender" who "resided" at Bar was not "Charles Edward" at all—could not have been "Charles Edward," who was not born till five years after the Pretender who did reside there had left. In the second, so little is "the house still pointed out" that, on my first visit to Bar, in August, 1890, I could actually not find a soul to give me even the vaguest information as to its whereabouts. Even mine hostess of the "Cygne," in whose stables, I afterwards discovered,[Pg 2] some of the Pretender's horses had been put up, had never heard of our political exile. "Cela doit être dans la Haute Ville"—"Cela doit être dans la Basse Ville"—"Eh bien, moi je n'en sais rien." Why should they know about the Pretender? There were no thanks, surely, due to him. While in the town, he had given himself intolerable airs, had put the town to no end of expense and all manner of trouble, and in the end had slunk away without so much as a word of thanks or farewell, leaving a heavy score of debts to be paid—and, up in a cottage perched on the very brow of the picturesque hill—for which some one else had to pay the rent—one pretty little Barisienne disconsolate, betrayed, disgraced. There was, in fact, but one man belonging to the town who had taken the trouble to trace the house from the description given in the local archives—a description, indeed, exact enough—M. Vladimir Konarski, and he was away on his holiday. There was nothing, then, for me to do, but to go home with an empty note-book, quoad Bar, and return in 1891 to resume my inquiry.
Even to us Englishmen the first Pretender is not a particularly attractive personage. But he is a historical character. And about his doings at Bar thus far very little has been made known. With the help of M. Konarski's notes, of the local archives, freely placed at my disposal by the kindness of M. A. Jacob, of the manuscripts in the Archives Nationales, in the Archives of Nancy and in the Foreign Office at Paris, of the Stuart MSS. in London, and of other neglected sources of information, as well as some rather minute local research, I have managed to gather together sufficient[Pg 3] historical crumbs to make up a fairly substantial loaf—all the information on the subject, I suppose, that is to be got. And, at any rate, as a secondary side-chapter to our national history at an important epoch, perhaps the account which within the limits of a magazine article I shall be able to give, may prove of passing interest to more besides those staunch surviving Jacobites who still from time to time "play at treason" in out-of-the-way places.
What sent the Pretender to Bar every schoolboy knows. We had fought with France and were, in 1713, about to conclude peace. Our court had, as a Stuart MS. in Paris puts it, showed itself extremely "chatouilleuse et susceptible" with respect to the countenance given at Versailles to James, and to his residence in France—where he seemed to us perpetually on the spring for mischief. Louis XIV., we were aware, had expressed his desire to render to the Pretender's family "de plus grands et plus heureux services" than he had yet been able to give. And so, very naturally, before engaging to suspend hostilities, we insisted that James should be turned out of France. Once we were about it, we might as well have asked a little more, and pressed for his removal to a farther distance from our shores. Considering all the commotion which afterwards arose upon this point, how Queen Anne was periodically pestered with addresses calling upon her to demand his removal, one might have thought that so much forethought might have been exercised. However, the idea seems never to have suggested itself to our wise statesmen at the proper time. On the contrary, the one thing which in 1712 and 1713 they[Pg 4] appeared eager for was, that James should not be allowed to settle in "papistical" Italy—the very country into which afterwards, just because it was papistical, so M. de Robethon's official letters admit in the plainest terms, the Court of Hanover was extremely anxious to see its enemy decoyed. If he would but go to Rome, that would be best of all. For it would do for him entirely at home, M. de Robethon thinks. However, in 1713 we took a different view, and, as Lorraine lay particularly handy and convenient, from the French point of view—being near, and though nominally an independent duchy, entirely under French influence—to Lorraine James was sent. There was some talk of his going to Nancy. He himself did not at first fancy Bar-le-Duc. He feared that he might find it slow. The French king believed that in a large town like Nancy, which had still some poor remnants of its once famous fortifications left, he would be safer. And when Duke Leopold had gone to all the trouble of putting the half-dilapidated château of Bar into habitable order, taking to it the pick of his own furniture from the palace at Nancy, and embarking in additional large purchases—in order to make James thoroughly comfortable, as Louis had told him that he must—he not unnaturally became, as the French envoy M. d'Audriffet reports, "fort agité," on being unexpectedly advised that after all the Chevalier was to go elsewhere. "Very well," said he in high dudgeon, "I will take back all my furniture. But I wash my hands of the whole business. At Bar I could have answered for the Chevalier's safety within reasonable limits. At Nancy the king will have to see to it himself. That is a[Pg 5] 'neutral' town, and every dangerous character from any part of Europe—cut-throat, assassin, Hanoverian emissary—has access to it. You will have to watch every stranger, to keep the exile perpetually under lock and key, to give him a large escort every time he leaves the town. To mark my refusal of all responsibility, I shall at once withdraw my little garrison of a company of guards from the place"—a brilliant little troop, decked out gaily in scarlet-and-silver. James, who was at the time at Châlons, awaiting the king's pleasure—waiting also for a passport and safe conduct (a most important requisite in those days)—and waiting, not least, for money, of which he was chronically, and at that moment most acutely, in want—his mother says that he had none at all—did not relish the idea of so much restraint and danger. So he begged Louis to change his mind back again, and to allow him after all to go to Bar. And Louis, having put poor Leopold to more trouble—for he had at once set eighty men at work at Nancy, turning his palace, "pillé, dégradé, négligé" that it was, to rights—coolly has Leopold informed that his first choice is again to hold good, with not a word of regret added to sweeten the pill, except it be, that all the trouble incurred "sera bientost reparé." Later, James found the air at Bar "trop vif" and accordingly thought of moving to Saint Mihiel. After that, his courtiers hoped that he would prevail upon the Duke to lend him his rather magnificent palace of Einville, near Lunéville. And in one of the despatches it is shown that their suspicion that Lord Middleton was opposing this proposal was one of the reasons why they so very much disliked him. But,[Pg 6] after all, with the interruptions caused by very frequent, and often prolonged, visits to Lunéville, to Commercy, and to Nancy—as well as to Plombières, and one or two sly expeditions to Paris and St Germains—in the interesting and picturesque little capital of the Barrois, washed by the foaming Ornain, did the Chevalier remain, hatching schemes, writing despatches to the Pope, quâ king, moreover making love to his nameless fair one, and beguiling the time with the games of the period, until the Fata Morgana of rather hoped for than anticipated success lured him on that unhappy expedition into Scotland.
James tries to make a serious hardship of his "exile" at Bar. But he might, without much trouble, have fixed upon a very much worse spot. Bar was not in his day the important town that it had been. The resident dukes, with their courts and knighthood, their tourneys and banquets, and all the pageantry of the days of early chivalry, had passed away. The famous University of de Tholozan, highly praised by Jodocus Sincerus, had likewise disappeared. Nor was the town anything like as accessible as it is now. There was no railway leading to it, no Rhine-Marne Canal—beautifying the scene wherever it passes—to carry life and business into the place. The roads were simply execrable. The surrounding woods swarmed with brigands, outlaws, and other bad characters, whom special chasse-coquins were retained to keep in awe. Whenever "His Majesty" moved from one place to another, the forest-roads had to be literally lined with troops to ensure his safety. But all this was no drawback peculiar to Bar. The entire duchy of Lorraine was suffering from[Pg 7] the same trouble—the after-effect of French ravages and French occupation. Leave that out of account, and Bar must have been attractive enough. Its situation is remarkably picturesque. The castle-hill rises up steeply, all but isolated from the surrounding heights, above the smiling valley of the Ornain, with delightfully green and tempting side-valleys curling around it, like natural fosses, on either side. The view of the long, bright green stretch of meadows bordering the river; the laughing gardens, full of flowers and shrubs; the luxuriant fruit-trees and hedges; the half-archaic-looking streets, venerable with their churches and monasteries, and the eleven old turreted gates, as they were then; the soft, rounded côtes, covered with clustering vines, but looking at a distance as if carpeted with velvety lawn; the picturesque range of hills on the opposite bank, contoured into a telling sky-line; the dark forests of richly varied foliage, and the charming "hangers" which drop down gracefully here and there, with pleasingly effective irregularity, into the plain; the pretty little cottage plots, bright with flowers, shady with overhanging trees, which then as now lined that useful Canal Urbain; and the peculiarly engaging perspective of the landscape spreading out right and left—all this combines to form a truly fascinating picture. The view of the castle-hill from below is no less pleasing. In James's day the hill was still crowned with the old historic castle, built in the tenth century, but embodying in its masonry the remains of the much more ancient structure in which Childéric I. had, like the Stuart prince, found a welcome refuge—the castle in which Francis of Guise was born, who drove us out of Calais—the castle[Pg 8] in which Mary Queen of Scots, bright with youthful beauty, and radiant with happiness, delighted with her cheering presence the gay Court of her cousin and playmate, Charles III., fresh to his ducal coronet, as she was to the second crown which decked her head—for she was newly married to Francis II., newly crowned Queen of France at Rheims. The daughter of Marie de Lorraine, brought up in Lorrain Condé, she reckoned herself a Lorraine princess, and as a Lorraine princess the Lorrains have ever regarded, and idolised, her. To the memory of this unhappy queen, round which time had gathered a bright halo of romance, not least was due that hearty welcome which the Lorrains readily extended to her exiled kinsman. Most picturesque must the castle have been in olden days, when those seventeen medieval towers (removed by order of Louis XIV. in 1670) still stood round about it like sturdy sentries, each laden with historic memories. Even now the view of the hill is pleasing enough—with its winding roads, its steep steps, its antique clock-tower, its terraced gardens and rambling lanes, with that rather imposing convent-school raising its walls perpendicularly many storeys high, the quaint church of St Peter topping the southern summit with its tower flattened to resist the wind, with those delightfully green and shady Pâquis[Pg 9] just beyond, densely wooded with trees, including the two largest elms in France—the Pâquis which, with their paslemaile, formed the favourite resort of James while at Bar, and in the shady seclusion of which he spun his web of deceiving flattery round the guileless heart of the girl whom he betrayed. Only to please him, we read in the archives, it was that the town council put up benches in that shade, which cost the town nine livres.
At James's time Bar was still a rather considerable provincial capital, the chef-lieu of the largest bailliage in Lorraine. And in that little "West End" of the Haute Ville, where a cluster of Louis-Quatorze houses still stand in decayed grandeur, to recall past fashionableness, the nobility of the little Barrois, locally always a powerful and influential body—the Bassompierres, the Haraucourts, the Lenoncourts, the Stainvilles, the Romécourts—had their town houses, and there also dwelt the pick of the bureaucracy, all ready to pay their court to the Stuart "king," to whom even the French envoy reckoned it "an honour" to be introduced. The town had its own municipal government—at one time with its own clergé, noblesse, and tiers état; in James's day still with its syndic, to represent the Crown, its elected mayeur, Maître des Comptes, so many eschargeots, esvardeurs, gouverneurs de carrefours, and so on. It had a wall all round with no fewer than eleven gates. When James was there, Bar was famed throughout France and Lorraine for its peculiarly "elegant" poignées d'épée (sword-hilts) and other cutlery. Corneille tells us that the whole street of Entre Deux Ponts was full of cutlers' shops, and no visitor ever came to the place but he[Pg 10] must carry off at least one sword-hilt as a keepsake. The town already manufactured its famous dragées and confitures, and pressed that same sour wine which "Murray" will have it—on what ground I know not—"resembles champagne," and which then was appreciated as a delicacy. The sanitary arrangements were not perfect. The Canal Urbain occasionally overflowed its banks and swamped the entire Rue des Tanneurs, in which the Pretender's house was situated. And, together with the rest of Bar and Lorraine, the town was still a little bit destitute after the havoc wrought by French and Swedes, Croats and Germans, Cravates (local brigands) and Champenois peasants, and all that "omnium bipedum sceleratissima colluvies," which had again and again overrun the duchy, robbing, burning, pillaging, violating, desecrating, torturing, exacting, and sucking the country dry to the very bone. Of all the world "only Jerusalem" had experienced worse horrors, so a pious Lorrain chronicler affirms. Oh, how the Lorrains of that day—and long after—hated and detested the French! When in November, 1714, those habitual invaders at length evacuated Nancy, the mob dressed up a straw figure in a French uniform, and led it forth amid jeers and execrations to an auto-da-fé. Even after annexation, a Nancy housewife declared herself most grossly "insulted" by a French officer, who simply explained the benefits which he thought that annexation must bring with it, and in anger she threw the friture, just frizzling in her pan, straight in his face.
Lorraine had been sadly afflicted indeed with long years of warfare. But in 1713 things were beginning to mend. Leopold, restored by the Treaty of Ryswick to his duchy—in[Pg 11] which, as duke, his father had never set foot—had been on the throne getting on for sixteen years. And what with the excellent counsels of that best of Chancellors, Irish Earl Carlingford, and his own intuitive judgment and enlightened and paternal despotism, Lorraine was becoming populous and prosperous, happy and contented, once more. Leopold earned himself a name for a shrewd and prudent ruler. His brother-in-law, Philip of Orleans (the Regent), said of him, that of all rulers of Europe he did not know one who was his superior "en expérience, en sagesse, et en politique." And Voltaire has immortalised his virtues by saying: "Il est à souhaiter que la dernière postérité apprenne qu'un des plus petits souverains de l'Europe a été celui qui fit le plus de bien à son peuple." In fact, he was the very ruler whom Lorraine at that juncture wanted. Autocratic he was, and vain, and self-important, notwithstanding the homely bourgeoisie of his manner. But he knew exactly where the shoe pinched, and how to devise a remedy. He it was who first conceived the idea, which has helped to make France prosperous, of a wide network of canals. He it was, who, in 1724, set Europe an example, which at the time made him famous, of covering his country with a network of model roads. And though he again and again proposed, for the benefit of his own family, to "swap" poor little Lorraine—for the Milanais, for a bit of the Low Countries, or for other valuable possessions—while he was duke, he managed to make himself popular, and he was resolved to do his duty. "Je quitterais demain ma souveraineté si je ne pouvais faire du bien," so he said. Under his father, that [Pg 12]brilliant general, Charles V., he had given proof of his pluck and prowess at Temeswar, of his military ability before Ebersburg. But in Lorraine, he knew, the one thing needful was peace. And with a dogged determination which was bound to overcome all difficulties, though the stars in their courses seemed to be fighting against him, that peace he managed to maintain, in the midst of a raging sea of war all round, which had drawn all neighbouring countries into its whirl. He did it—it is worth recording, because it materially affected James's position at his Court—by as adroit balancing between the two great belligerent Powers of the Continent as ever diplomatist managed to achieve. Born and bred in Austria, allied to the Imperial family by the closest ties of blood—his mother was an archduchess—trained in Austrian etiquette, an officer in the Austrian army, beholden to Austria for many past favours—and keenly alive to the fact that for any favours which might yet be to come he must look exclusively to the Court of Vienna—in his leanings and prepossessions he was entirely Austrian. But under his father and great-uncle history had taught his country the severe lesson, that without observing the best, though they be the most obsequious, relations towards France, at whose mercy the country lay, no Lorraine was possible. Accordingly, almost Leopold's very first act as Duke was to send M. de Couvange to Paris, to solicit on his behalf the hand of "Mademoiselle," the Princess of Orleans. Her hand was gladly accorded. There was a tradition—with a very obvious object—at Paris in favour of Lorrain marriages. This was the thirty-third, and there remained a thirty-fourth to conclude—the[Pg 13] ill-starred marriage of Marie Antoinette. King James II. and his Queen attended the wedding at Fontainebleau, and Elizabeth Charlotte became one of the best of wives, and best and most popular of Lorraine duchesses, bearing her husband no less than fourteen children. Balancing between Austria and France, maintaining his private relations with the one, giving way in everything to the other, was Leopold's prudent maxim throughout his reign. So long as he adhered to that he felt himself safe. Whenever he departed from it, he found himself getting into mischief.
Leopold has been much abused by our writers and politicians, as if he had been a deliberate anti-English plotter and Jacobite accomplice. It is but fair to him to explain why he afforded our Pretender such liberal hospitality. The real fact is, that he could not help himself. He was bound to. France demanded it, and he could not refuse—nor yet refuse to make his hospitality generous and lavish. There was the additional attraction, indeed, of a show of importance, of a little implication in diplomatic negotiations and playing a part in European high politics, which to Leopold must have been strongly seductive. A good deal is also said about religious motives, the suggestion of which must have helped Leopold equally with the Curia and the Imperial Court, with both of whom he was anxious to stand well. The Pope—it is true, under pressure from James—subsequently thanked Leopold in a special brief, "ample et bien exprimé," for the proof of attachment which he had rendered to the Church by his reception of the English Pretender, the emblem to all Europe of the Church of Rome under persecution. Leopold[Pg 14] was an exceptionally devout Roman Catholic. He heard mass religiously every day, spent an hour in prayer after dinner, and "adored the Sacrament" every evening. He had revived Charles III.'s stringent provisions against Protestants, interdicting all public worship and, in theory at any rate, declaring Protestantism a crime deserving of hanging. In his excessive zeal he would not even allow the Cistercian monks of Beaupré to retain in their service a Protestant shepherd, though they pleaded hard that he was the best shepherd whom they had ever had. So zealous a believer was of course a man after the very heart of the widow and son of that "fort bon homme," as Archbishop Le Tellier scoffingly termed James II., who had "sacrificed three kingdoms for a mass." To himself, on the other hand, it seemed something of a sacred act to open his house to the "Woman persecuted by the dragon." However, all this was but as dust in the balance by the side of the compelling necessity of French dictation, doubly compelling at that particular period. For Leopold had of late been playing his own little game. Things had gone against France in the field, and he had put his money on the other horse. He was always after a fashion a gambling and speculative ruler, willing to stake almost his very existence on the roulette of high politics. At that moment he was flattering himself with hopes that the Congress of Utrecht would do something for him. Both Austria and England had privately promised—at least some of their statesmen had—that he was to have a seat at the Congress table. That would add immensely to his dignity and prestige. Then he was to have a slice of the Low Countries.[Pg 15] To ensure this result, he was "casting his bread upon the waters" with a vengeance—spending money wholesale, bribing English, and Dutch, and Austrian statesmen with the most profuse generosity—more particularly Marlborough, in whom he appears to have retained a belief throughout, who most faithlessly "sold" him, and who cost him a fortune. At the very time here spoken of our great general had been favoured with a fresh mark of favour from Leopold—a magnificent carosse, horsed with six splendid dapple-greys (Leopold was a great horse-fancier), hung with most costly trappings. All this—which proved in the event to have been entirely thrown away—very naturally gave umbrage to France. And Louis XIV. had not missed his opportunity of letting Leopold know that a score was being marked up against him at Versailles. France had never stood on much ceremony with Lorraine, from Henry II. downward. Louis XIV., more particularly, had done his best to equal his grandfather's notorious and most capricious hostility. In 1702, in the teeth of international law and of Leopold's protests, as well as Elizabeth Charlotte's prayers, he had marched his troops into Lorraine. They were still there, indeed, in larger numbers than before. When 1709 brought its "grand hiver"—still remembered as a time of grievous tribulation—when the crops froze in the fields, the vines in the vineyards, the children in the nursery, the sacramental wine in the chalice, the water by the fire, when Dearth and Famine once more laid their grim hand upon all Lorraine—Louis XIV. had given Leopold a little additional cut with his tyrant's whip, seizing some of the provisions providently laid up for the relief of his subjects, and[Pg 16] appropriating them to the use of his own armies, which moreover, he reinforced by a fresh contingent of 20,000 men, sent with orders to live "à discrétion." Louis was quite ready to do something of the same sort again. Therefore, when Louis said: Receive James, Leopold had no choice but to receive him. His letters and despatches make this perfectly clear. There is a good deal of talk about the Pretender's "estimable qualities," how the Duke and Duchess admire him, how happy they are that he has not gone to Aix-la-Chapelle. And no doubt the two managed to be for a time excellent friends. But every now and then, through all this polite buncombe, out comes the frank admission that all is done "to please the king." And we know how promptly and unhesitatingly Leopold's hospitality was withdrawn, once French pressure ceased, in 1716. To ourselves, by receiving an exiled Pretender into his neutral realm, as we have received many such, Leopold never dreamt that he was giving cause for legitimate umbrage. No one could be more surprised than he seems to have been when our Parliament took up the matter as a grievance.
And, to be fair, he never appears to have afforded to James the slightest encouragement for a forcible assertion of his claims. His counsel was all the other way. It was the French, it was the Pretender's own followers at home, it was Roman Cardinal Gualterio, who countenanced, and occasionally urged, warlike measures. Cardinal Gualterio, more in particular, prodded the Catholic prince very vigorously, in the interest of his Church, arguing that "il falloit hazarder quelque chose et meme affronter le sort, ce qui ne se fait pas[Pg 17] sans risque." Leopold, on the other hand, was all dissuasion. He wanted James to keep near England, in order to be handy in the event of his being recalled—which he seems to have thought a likely contingency. When James began to talk of armaments and invasions, Leopold dwelt upon the difficulties, the all-but-hopelessness of such a move. When, in June, 1714, shortly before Queen Anne's death, James wrote from Plombières, that he must go into England, since he learnt that his rival, the Electoral Prince of Hanover, had gone there, Leopold, who was admirably informed from Hanover, through his brother, the Elector-Archbishop of Trèves, sent a message back post-haste with the trustworthy tidings that George was neither gone nor going. The reasons which led George's father to forbid his visit read a little strange at the present day. In the first place, there was that Hanoverian economy—which, it is true, was ostensibly disclaimed. In the second, the Prince was not to be received in England as heir-presumptive—so that he would not really better his chances by going. Moreover, the Elector, "connoissant l'humeur brusque et fort emportée de son fils, apprehendoit beaucoup qu'il ne se rendit odieux aux anglais." Lastly, and mainly, he was afraid of dropping between two stools, if he were to stake his son's chances too decidedly on the English succession. It was quite on the cards, he thought, that "par un effet des resolutions que l'inconstance de la nation y a rendues si ordinaire," the British nation would chasser its next sovereign as it had chassé its last-but-one. And then, where would his son be? For if his son went to England, it was much to be feared that his brother, who had[Pg 18] been not quite rightfully excluded from the succession, might make good his claim to Hanover. And there would George be, out in the cold! So his father was resolved to play a waiting game.
The first difficulty which James found himself confronted with, and which Leopold had to overcome for him—for French good offices were obviously out of the question—was the procuring of a passport. Such credential was at the time indispensable, for Europe was swarming with bad characters. Besides, there was nominally war still; and public roads and even walled towns were altogether insecure. In the Foreign Office papers we come across correspondence relating to the robbing of the public coach running between Strassburg and Paris, at Benameny, in Lorrain territory, by Palatine soldiers, who had come over from Caub. And even in carefully locked and watched Bar-le-Duc, Leopold advises King Louis that, with "a fourth company of his regiment of guards" added to the local force, besides twenty-five chevaux-legers and twenty-five gardes-du-corps to act as escort, he can answer for the Pretender's safety only against attacking parties of not more than fifty or a hundred at the outside, which, he says, ought to be borne in mind, "si armées se mettoient en campagne." Queen Mary only expresses what everyone felt when she says that it is to be apprehended "que quelque méchant en se servissent de l'occasion pour faire un méchant coup." She accordingly begs the "commnoté" of Chaillot to pray for "the king's" safety.
In 1714 the Emperor, who was the principal sovereign to be petitioned, would not make out a passport for James, to enable him to move into Germany—though[Pg 19] professedly willing to give the Stuart his niece in marriage, and avowedly not a little put out with England, but yet desirous of avoiding offence to King George. In 1713 he raised no difficulty. Indeed, at Leopold's instance he was obliging enough to supplement his passport with a special letter of commendation very kindly worded. And he carefully avoided treading on corns either way by not naming James in the document—for all of which Leopold takes great credit. But it appears that plenty more potentates besides the Emperor had to be solicited. And the two Electors, of Hanover and of Brandenburg, were obdurate in their refusal—in agreement for once. It was a ticklish matter; for without their safe-conduct James could scarcely be counted secure. On the other hand, if their safe-conducts were to be waited for, the Emperor would of a surety take offence, as if his own passport were judged insufficient. Leopold, being great on etiquette, took the last-named to be the more serious danger, and advised running the risk—more particularly since he had been advised by his envoy in London, Baron Förstner, that Queen Anne had privately granted what amounted to a passport to her brother for going into Lorraine. That was taken to settle the matter, and James put himself en route.
It was on the 22d of February, 1713, that he reached Bar, closely guarded and travelling incognito, on which account an official reception in Bar was dispensed with, though the French artillery at Toul had fired a salute. The council were under strict injunctions to omit nothing which might conduce to their visitor's safety, or minister to his comfort, or that was [Pg 20]conventionally due to a crowned head. Accordingly, we find them in their next sitting, on the 25th February, passing a whole string of votes and resolutions having reference to his arrival and his safety in the town. The police and chasse-coquins are forthwith put on the alert, sentries are placed at all corners, and, to accommodate them, a whole number of new sentry-boxes are put up. The authorities are directed to question every stranger coming into the town carefully, and, if there should appear to be anything suspicious about any one, rigorously to detain him and report the case at once by express courier to Lunéville. Iron grilles are put up. All the postern-gates are walled up, so is one of the principal entrances, and so is—in spite of sanitary considerations—a main sewer passing through the wall. Soldiers were a good deal less squeamish in those days than they are now, and sewers had served for many a surprise in the Thirty Years' War. The remaining ten gates are to be carefully watched, and never opened before 5 A.M., nor left open after 8 P.M. Billets are issued for the overflow of James's suite, which appears to have been numerous, and stable-room is bespoken for his horses. James evidently was an inconvenient visitor to house. For he would have all his large apparatus of Court and Household close to him—chamberlains, kitchen, kennel, and all. Mrs Strickland praises his habitual economy. His doings in Lorraine do not bear out that praise. From the Nairne MSS. in the British Museum (which give a full list) we know that in 1709 and 1710 his household comprised above 120 persons, from the secretaries down to the grooms' helper, drawing salaries of from 12 to 675 livres per[Pg 21] mensem. There was the Comptroller, Mr. Bous, who retailed the anecdotes of the Court to Lady Middleton; a clerk of the green cloth, a yeoman baker, a yeoman confectioner, a yeoman of the chaundry, Jeremiah Browne, "Esq.," master-cook, a water-carrier, and a scourer. There were yeomen's scullery assistants, confessors and chaplains, a doctor, a "chyrurgien," and an apothecary, a "rideing purveyor," and a "chaiseman," "Lady Maclane, laundress," pursuivants, and necessary women—all that belongs to a royal household. And the whole establishment cost "19,412 lstrs. per mensem." All these people did not go to Bar, but a good many did. And there were a crowd more, for whom the town had to provide. For we read in the Macpherson Papers that all "Peacock's family"—i.e., all Protestant refugees who had been at "Stanley," i.e., at St. Germains—had followed the Chevalier to Bar. There was not one of them left. So writes the Queen. And the Duke states, quite independently of this, that the Pretender is surrounded with Protestant exiles. Altogether James's Court ran up a goodly bill, which it was disappointing to the town afterwards to find that, though incurred by express order of the Duke, the burgesses were expected to meet out of their own funds. To enable them to do so, Leopold allowed the council to appropriate the deniers of the octroi to their involuntary hospitality.
The more or less Protestant colouring given to the refugee establishment was scarcely palatable to the very orthodox population of Bar. But James was playing, not to the Bar pit, but to the English gallery. "Downs or Leslie should at once go there," so we find O'Rourke writing to Middleton early in 1713. Leslie did go[Pg 22] soon after, and the Chevalier, as his advocates take credit, prevailed upon the Duke to relax his rigid rule in one instance, and allow Protestant service in an upper room in James's house. That was in the "Rue Nève." The upper room, which, we read, was just over James's own apartment, cannot have been large. So it is to be feared that the service was not over well attended. But it was enough to save appearances, and to give the Jacobites of England a shadow of reason for declaring, as they did, that James really was a Protestant. James himself spoke a very different language. "He would rather abandon all than act against his conscience and his honour." He protested over and over again that "all the crowns in the world would not make him change his religion."
Thanks to King Louis's perpetual ordering and countermanding, when James got to Bar, the château was once more as bare and uninhabitable as ever it had been, and for a few days the Pretender had to be content with the same rather humble house which he was destined subsequently to occupy for a considerable time, in the "Rue des Tanneurs"—Number 22, Rue Nève, it is now—a plain, square, three-storeyed building (counting the upper range of rooms, which is very low, as a storey). This is described as at the time "the principal house" in the town, the property of one of the most distinguished residents, Councillor of State M. Marchal. It has eight windows frontage, facing severally the Rue Nève and the Rue des Pressoirs, and abutting width-ways on the very narrow passage Rue St. Antoine. A few days later, however, we find the Pretender safely established in the château, and[Pg 23] there on the 9th of March he receives the Duke of Lorraine and his brother François, Abbé of Stavelot, with an amount of circumstance and scrupulous weighing of precedences which is described with rather amusing minuteness in the 'Gazette de France.' Not to hurt James's feelings—to whom royal honours could not be openly shown, out of consideration for Queen Anne—Leopold ordered that he himself should not be received with the usual ceremonial, troops under arms, and councillors presenting addresses. But the Lorrains were a devotedly loyal population. They would not be forbidden. The whole population of the town and of all the surrounding district crowded into the streets, to receive the ruler of the land with shouts of welcome. James, being the resident, played the host at Bar. There was, a dinner, a supper, and a long private talk in the château, with the result, we read, that the two princes at once became fast friends. James, we know, though wanting in most of the qualities which are regarded as specifically manly, was a good-looking and agreeable fellow enough. As for Leopold, with his experience of Courts, and his kind and considerate disposition, he could not very well prove otherwise than a pleasant companion and a kind patron. We have plenty of portraits of him left, limned both with pen and with brush. Short and stumpy, round-bellied, red-faced, with a free allowance of pimples, and, moreover, with those abnormally stout legs which remained his most striking outward characteristic to his dying day, he must have looked a veritable Jacques Bonhomme put into a full-bottomed wig and court-dress. There is a tale to those legs. Leopold came into the world about two[Pg 24] months before his time, very sickly and very delicate. More particularly his legs were very spindles. Under a special treatment designed to remedy this defect, they grew just as much too big as previously they had been too thin. Terrible stickler for etiquette that Leopold was, and intent upon lavish display, when occasion seemed to demand it, both himself and his wife were simplicity itself when such occasion was withdrawn. They could talk to a peasant in the peasant's brogue about his ouïettes and his hemp. One of the princesses thought nothing of accepting a lift home in a market-cart, and, as the driver commendingly related, showed herself "bien sage." "Cousine," said the Duchess to the Duchess of Elbœuf, "restez chez nous, nous avons un bon gigot." This simplicity and familiarity with humble ways as a matter of course made the Duke and Duchess popular. But what helped them more than anything to gain their people's hearts was their remarkable readiness to enter into all those local fêtes which long custom had sanctioned as common to both high and low. The French occupation had made a long break in the observance of those fêtes. How should the Lorrains "sing songs" in what had become to them practically "a strange land?" For something like thirty years their harps remained hung up upon the willow-trees. Great, however, was the joy when at the first Fête de la Veille des Rois—kept in commemoration of the brilliant victory achieved over Charles the Bold in 1476—and at the Brandons or Faschinottes,[Pg 25] following that fête, the Duke and Duchess appeared in person among the merry-makers, entering most good-humouredly and, indeed, jovially into all their doings. Of the many local customs which Lorraine boasts, the Brandons was at that time still the particular favourite. It had been handed down from hoary antiquity. Every couple married since the last Brandons was expected to join. The husband had to provide himself with a faggot or log of wood, and carry it in procession through the town, accompanied by his wife, along a roundabout route prescribed by custom, to the Duke's palace, march three times past the Duke's window, and then deposit the piece of fuel on a huge pyramidal pyre built up in the ducal courtyard. Some couples went on foot, others rode on horseback. All were dressed in their best, and the procession must have looked exceedingly picturesque. Every lady was expected to wear some little ornament—generally made of silver—specially devised to indicate either her calling or her station in life: a coronet, or a sickle, or whatever it might be. The streets were lined with people, who freely expended their wit—a pretty ready one—in chaff pointed at the new victims to matrimony, who in their turn were expected to put on a most dejected look, as if seriously repenting the allegiance rashly entered into to Hymen. In the evening the pyre was lighted, and round this huge bonfire people made mildly merry with gambols and dances. Tables were spread, at the Duke's cost, richly laden with viands and native wine. In 1698, at the first revival of the Brandons after a long pause, the file of matrimonial victims was, of course, quite exceptionally long. It[Pg 26] was a delightful surprise to the crowd to see at its head the Duke and Duchess themselves, newly married as they were—the Duchess, being slightly enceinte with her first-born, wearing at her girdle a little silver cradle. That was not all. In the evening Leopold mixed freely with the revellers, stopped at table after table, drank here and drank there, proposing a toast or responding to one,—with the result that the people went half-mad with enthusiasm. Not a tumbler had the Duke drunk out of, which was not religiously treasured as a relic. And long after the French had forced their yoke firmly home upon the shrinking neck of unwilling Lorraine, those tumblers were still shown to growing children as memorials of the "good old time." At the carnival, which followed the Brandons, Leopold and Elizabeth Charlotte were again to the fore. They did not mind figuring in public—even sometimes on an amateur stage. Leopold once appeared masked as Sultan—his consort, not quite appropriately, as an Odalisk; but the loyal Lorrains saw nothing incongruous in that dress.
The striking difference very apparent in the characters severally of host and guest in our little chapter of history, may have helped to draw them together all the more closely. James was in his ordinary mood anything but mirthful. References to him are frequent in the correspondence as being "terribly sad," or else "very pensive, which is his ordinary humour," "très sérieux et reservé," so much so that "rien ne l'auoit pû tirer de la profonde melancolie ou il étoit," and so on. Yet he could be merry, too, and more in particular he loved a dance. At one ball, given in the Palace at[Pg 27] Lunéville, we read that he managed particularly to ingratiate himself with the ladies who were past their first bloom, by an act of undoubted chivalry. They wanted badly to dance, but dared not, while the Duchess was sitting. And the Duchess considered herself too much of a matron to foot it with the young ones. James, however, made her. He would take no refusal. The dead room became reanimated once more, and many an aging heart in its night-thoughts blessed the gallant prétendant. James, we are told, was a prominent figure in the Nancy Brandons and Carnival, kept with peculiar éclat in 1715, after a fresh break of thirteen years, due to French occupation. Court chroniclers seem to consider that the presence of "Le Roi d'Angleterre" added peculiar lustre to that performance.
Reporting himself after his visit to Bar, as in duty bound, to King Louis, Leopold declares himself "charmé de l'esprit, de la sagesse, de la douceur et des manières gracieuses de M. le Chevalier de Saint Georges." The 'Journal de Verdun,' drawing its information, of course, from official sources, announces that after their first encounter the two princes "se separèrent extrêmement satisfaits l'un de l'autre" in "parfaite amitié bien cimentée." Of James it will have it that he is "d'un caractère si doux, si affable, et si populair, qu'il s'est bientôt acquis, de tous ceux qui ont eu l'honneur de le voir, le respect et la vénération dûs à sa vertu et à sa naissance."
Leopold gone, the time passed, on the whole, quietly at Bar. There were occasional alarms, when some suspicious stranger had been seized. On one occasion, again, there is some talk of a "poisoned letter," sent[Pg 28] in an ingenious fashion. To Louis, we find, the Duke appeared a little too forward in warning James of these dangers, as if he wanted to frighten his guest into quitting Lorraine. To vary the little episodes, there was the famous coëqure, who so much amused Queen Mary Beatrice's companions with his odd manners and his "thou"-ing. "The Spirit had moved him," as we know, to inform James that he was to rule over England, in which country there were plenty of well-wishers to support him. Were money wanted, he said that his friends would readily combine to raise some millions. They did not, welcome as the money would have been to James, whom we find continually complaining of want of funds. In the cipher despatches the common burden is, that "Mr. Parton" will not "deliver the goods." There is another prophetic person to encourage the Pretender, a nun of the "Monastère de Sainte Marie del Roma," near Montevallo—accredited by her superior, who writes to the Marquis Spada that her prophecies have never failed to come true. If he escapes the many traps set for him in 1715, so the nun says, James will certainly become King of England. Occasionally also there are little tiffs between English visitors and Barisien residents. What English, Scotch, and Irish there were there, we do not know for certain, but there were a goodly number, and not all of the best manners. Noel, who is a good historian on Lorrain things, but a little at fault on English, will have it that among these people was "Lord Chatham, qui devint plus tard si célèbre." Occasionally there was a visitor coming on the sly with news—such as the Duke of Berwick, whose visits were at one time frequent—or,[Pg 29] towards the end of the sojourn, the banished Lord Bolingbroke, and "Le Comte de Peterborough" travelling under the pseudonym of "Schmit." Marlborough did not come himself, but he sent an aide-de-camp on a confidential mission to Lunéville, overflowing with pleasant words, and through him be begged particularly to be well and promptly advised on the Chevalier's movements, since "Le salut d'Angleterre" might depend upon this. The Duke of Lorraine was not particularly impressed with James's followers, especially after Lord Middleton was gone. "Ce ne sont que des gens d'un caractère fort médiocre," he writes. They talk about things which affect their chief with the utmost freedom. In Mr Higgons, who had succeeded Lord Middleton, he could discern no merit whatever. As for Lord Middleton, he found him "fort reservé et voulant dominer seul." He gives him credit for capacity and zeal, but censures him as being "timide et irresolu." All the rest, he says, are "de jeunes gens qui ne pouuoint souffrir ce Milord, et qui auoint eu l'imprudence de dire à Lunéville qu'il etoit si fort hay en Angleterre que les plus zelez partisans de leur Maitre auoint temoigné qu'ils ne feroint jamais rien pour ces interests tant qu'il l'auroit au-prez de luy." All these men evidently have very little knowledge of what is going on at home, he says. There is no one in whose judgment the Pretender might repose any faith except it be the Earl of Oxford or Lord Bolingbroke.
On the whole, the Pretender's life at Bar, though perhaps a little monotonous, can scarcely have been unpleasant. He made friends with the local haute volée, asking them to dinner, and being asked back—and[Pg 30] borrowed money from them whenever he could. His especial friends were the Marquis de Bassompierre, from whom he borrowed 15,000 livres, which the Duke repaid in 1719, and M. de Rousselle. A good deal of time the Chevalier spent in his closet, with Nairne, or Higgons, or Middleton, concocting plans and dictating long memorials to the Pope, or else to Cardinal Gualterio, advocating the canonisation of Bellarmine, recommending protégés for places which they never got, and insisting on his right to nominate bishops to Irish sees, the names of which he could not spell. At off-times he played reversi, boston, and ombre, and occasionally petit palet, which is an aristocratic form of chuck-farthing. Then there was the pleasure of the chase, of which we know from Father Leslie that James was a tolerably keen votary. In Lorraine the diversion of vénerie was held in high estimation, though reserved only for very great magnates, and guarded by a ring-fence of the strictest enactments against vulgar intrusion. Poaching accordingly came to be a very common offence. "Ground game," indeed—at any rate rabbits—it was open to all to shoot. "High game"—i.e., deer—on the other hand, was reserved within certain limits exclusively for the Duke. Within about eight miles of the Duke's palaces, in what were called the ducal plaisirs, not even nobles of the highest rank were permitted to shoot or hunt. No dogs belonging to private persons were allowed in the fields near those plaisirs, on any pretence whatever, be the deer, and boars, and wolves, ever so troublesome. Even shepherds' dogs and watch-dogs must have their hamstrings cut, or else a log tied round their necks. And in some[Pg 31] districts every Parish was required by law to provide a louvière or wolf's pit, 20 feet deep, 18 feet wide at its bottom, and 12 at its opening. From "le haut puissant messire" Jean de Ligniville's most amusing disquisitions on "La Meutte et Venerie" we learn that the district about Bar was "très boisé" and well stocked with game of every description, which, local chroniclers tell us, James was frequently occupied in hunting. Lorrain and English hunting were not then as far apart in their general features as one might be tempted to assume. English kings had more than once sent presents of English hounds to Lorrain dukes—Charles III. received from James I. a present of eighty harriers at a time. And more than one Lorrain grandee came over to hunt and shoot here. Ligniville himself, the Duke's Grand Veneur (under Charles IV.), had frequently hunted in England, and expressed himself especially delighted with the sport in which he had joined in Yorkshire. On the whole, he appears to have considered English hounds superior to French—less eager at first, but with more stay in them—and he was proud of having received presents of some from the Prince of Wales of his time (Charles I.), "Milord de Hée," and from "Milord Howard." But a cross between English and French hounds he seems to have regarded as the ne plus ultra of excellence. "Puss" was very much persecuted in the valley of the Meuse, furnishing by its exceptional swiftness and skill in swimming almost too good sport, "contre montant l'eaüe tellement viste que les chiens ne les pouuoint pas aborder." James's hunting sometimes led him into adventures, and on one occasion nearly saddled his host with a[Pg 32] diplomatic difficulty. Riding hard, he once got to the little town of Ligny at nightfall, some eight miles from Bar, in a vassal territory belonging, under the Duke of Lorraine, to Montmorency, Duke of Luxemburg. The Duke of Luxemburg, being rather a big vassal, was in consequence also a very troublesome one, and the Lorrain Court and his officers frequently found themselves at loggerheads. To James, coming from Bar, with fifty Lorrain gens d'armes, besides his own suite, the maire resolutely refused to open the gates and furnish lodgings for the night, grounding his refusal upon a decision of the Parliament of Paris passed in the year 1661. The Lorrains were quite prepared for a siege and an assault. However, James deemed it wiser to leave things alone, and so the company rode half a mile further, to a little village called Velaine, where they spent a most uncomfortable night. Soon we have Montmorency complaining to King Louis of the assumed "nouuelles entreprises de M. le Duc de Lorrain sur mon comté de Ligny." Leopold revenged himself by imprisoning about a dozen maires of the Ligny county, on the plea of their having failed to furnish the requisite waggons, and in the end bought Montmorency out with the sum of 2,600,000 francs.
All this, however, was not enough excitement for James. In one of his letters he plaintively calls Bar his "Todis"—by which of course he means "Tomis." "Tomis," by a natural train of thought suggested—besides the tristia, of which we have plenty—the ars amatoria. And to it the Chevalier devoted not a few of his unoccupied hours. If local tradition speaks true, he differed very materially in his prosecution of this art[Pg 33] from his father, of whom Catherine Sedley said that on what principle he selected the ladies of his heart she could never make out. None of them were good-looking, and if any of them had wit, he had not the wit to find it out. And Mary of Modena, his wife, added that, although he was willing to give up his crown for his faith, he could never muster sufficient resolution to discard a mistress. His son was in both respects far more of a man of the world.
It was in the green bosquets of those Pâquis, his favourite lounging-place, that James first discovered his human jewel. To house her suitably, he took—at somebody else's cost—a cottage on the brow of the hill, where the view is delightful and the air magnificent. You can still approximately trace the site, high up in the Rue de l'Horloge, above the Rue St. Jean, a little below the neglected terrace in the Rue Chavée—which is well worth visiting for its prospect. As the house stood with its back to the hill and facing only the open space, there must have been absolute privacy. But, after moving down to the Lower Town, James found the ascent by those Quatre-vingt Degrés—which Oudinot rode up on horseback—a trifle laborious. The steps lead almost straight up from his house to the cottage, describing just enough of an angle to take in the humble building, now marked by a tablet, in which Marshal Oudinot was born. A more convenient arrangement could scarcely have been desired. But the steps were sadly "sales et délabrés." Not to inconvenience James in his amours, the town council readily voted the requisite sum for putting them into proper repair.
[Pg 34]When September came on, James found the air on the castle-hill "trop vif." Although his mother generally reports that "il se porte bien," it is to be feared that his constitution was none of the strongest. We read in one of D'Audriffet's despatches, "que sa santé estoit toujours fort delicate." He has had a "fluxion" in the eye. He has "weak lungs." "He is evidently very poorly," writes D'Audriffet to Louis. He finds himself "alteré par l'intemperie du tems." He takes the waters of Plombières four times "for his health," and wants to take those of Aix-la-Chapelle. He talks of going to a warmer climate—Spain or Italy, or, more specifically, Venice. But he can now obtain no fresh passport from the Emperor. Then he goes to have a look at Saint Mihiel, likewise in the Barrois, only a few miles from Koeurs, in which another Prince of Wales, young Edward—the same whom Edward IV. meanly struck with his gauntlet, and Richard of Gloucester despatched with a stab, to stop his "sprawling"—spent his young years of exile in company with his mother, Queen Margaret, from 1464 to 1471. But he does not like the idea of living in the Benedictine Abbey. So the Duke orders the town council to get ready once more M. Marchal's convenient house below, to which the Chevalier insists that a second house adjoining shall be added, belonging to M. de Romécourt, besides a portion of one belonging to M. Lepaige, with a kitchen specially built, and a "gardemanger," a new door, and sundry other conveniences, to say nothing of the hiring of further accommodation for his horses, his kennel, his gens de vénerie, his guards, some of his suite—all of whom and all of which he wants very near him, and all of which[Pg 35] consequently, costs the town a good deal of money. M. de Romécourt's house is a complete match to M. Marchal's, but smaller, bringing up the frontage to thirteen windows.
However, James was not always at Bar, nor yet always, when away, at Plombières. Duke Leopold was constantly inviting him to Lunéville, and sometimes to Nancy, and arranging most magnificent fêtes in his honour. Leopold could do things handsomely when he chose. Even when James stayed three whole weeks, there was something new provided every day to amuse him—"les plaisirs de la Cour étoint entremêlé de repas, de collations, de bals, de concerts, de Comédie, de promenades, de chasse, de feux d'artifice, etc., mais chaque jour tout étoit nouveau." Leopold's palace at Lunéville—the same in allusion to which Louis XV. said to King Stanislas, "Mon père, vous êtes mieux logé que moi"—was specially laid out for the gaiety and the varied succession of amusements for which the Lorrain Court was famous. It was at the Lorrain Court that the cotillon, that universal favourite on the Continent, was first invented. And in Leopold's theatre it was that Adrienne Lecouvreur made her first appearance.
To give James a right royal reception, Leopold spared neither pains nor money. He always made a point of going to meet his guest—to Batelemont, to Houdemont, or to Gondrecourt. To enable the Court to enter with proper spirit into all the magnificence prepared, we read in the official despatches, that in April, 1713, on the occasion of James's first visit, the Duke directed that two quarters' salaries, in arrear since 1711, should be paid to the officers of his household.[Pg 36] D'Audriffet makes merry over this. But in France things were no better. The Court of Versailles, we know, was always behindhand in its payments to Queen Mary. Mrs Strickland makes this a matter of reproach to Desmarets, as if purely the result of his negligence. But the Court had not got the money. In 1715 we have D'Audriffet himself sending in his little account, which shows five years' salary to be owing, in addition to 24,800 livres of disbursements, the whole debt amounting to 84,800 livres.
Even more brilliant than the fêtes given at Lunéville, were those to which James was invited at the Château of Commercy, the seat of the Prince de Vaudémont. Vaudémont was rich and generous. He had occupied high positions in the army and the administrative services both of Austria and of Spain. He was a man pre-eminently prudent in council. Our William III. had discovered that, and had frequently sought his opinion, more particularly while the Treaty of Ryswick was under consideration. To James the Prince became a most valuable friend and confidant—more especially at that critical juncture when the Pretender's great aim was to get away unobserved form Lorraine. In his splendid castle of Commercy, set off by magnificent cent gardens and sheets of water throwing Versailles into the shade, the "Damoiseau" of Commercy gave fêtes the description of which baffled Court chroniclers of the period, and after which, in the words of the "Gazette de Hollande," James found himself constrained to go back to Bar in self-defence, "pour s'y delasser, pour ainsi dire, de la fatigue des plaisirs continuels." There was such a fête in June, 1713, arranged on a[Pg 37] peculiarly lordly scale, in which a chorus of Pèlerins de Saint Jacques were brought in—appropriately hailing from "L'Isle de Cythère," and provided with passports from the goddess Venus—whose special object seems to be to say pretty things to James:—
"Vous gagnez tous les cœurs, tout le monde gémit
De voir un Roy d'une bonté si rare,
Et brillant de l'éclat de toutes les vertus
Loin des Etats qui lui sont dûs
Mais nous verrons un jour cette triple couronne
Qu'ont porté si longtems vos Illustres Ayeux,
Sur votre chef tomber des Cieux.
Le mérite, le sang, les Loix, tout vous la donne;
Laissez le soin de soûtenir ces droits
Au Dieu qui dans ses mains porte les cœurs des Rois."
Then a curious supper was given. The twenty-four most illustrious guests present sat down at two tables, the ladies at one, the gentlemen at the other. Each person was served with an equal portion, "tous en vaisselle de fayance, jusqu'aux manches des couteaux."
"Et dans ce sobre repas
Chacun n'eut que vingt-sept plats."
In all, to these twenty-four people 648 plats were served. The great joke of the meal was, that strict silence was enjoined. "Mais on avoit oublié d'en bannir les Ris." So people soon began to laugh, and then the men accused the ladies of breaking the rule, and the ladies retorted, and that put an end to Trappism. On another occasion, in July, 1714, when James spent a fortnight at Commercy—while his sister was slowly dying—the Prince, in the course of an even more brilliant fête, entertained his guests with sham-fights, the[Pg 38] siege of a castle, and other incidents of military operations, for which the services of a French army-corps stationed in the neighbourhood, at Troussay, under the command of M. de Ruffey, were impressed.
Mary of Modena must have felt the removal of her only son—her only child, since the Princess Louise, "la Consolatrice," was dead—very keenly. She declared that she had no one left to open her heart to. This was not to be understood quite literally, for we find the Queen-Dowager pouring out her confidences very effusively to her chère mère and the sisters at Chaillot, whose journals, in fact, supply the main records of Mary's doings. But, no doubt, she missed James much. Once after his banishment, in July, 1714—when James rushed secretly to Paris, to consult with the king about the steps to be taken in view of Queen Anne's impending death, and was sent away "fort peu satisfait"—she had seen him for an hour or two in the night. Very naturally, she wished to visit him at Bar, more particularly as her doctors had advised her to try the waters of Plombières. It is not altogether impossible, also, although the Queen was kept in rather tight leading-strings by Dr. Beaulieu, that, plagued as she was with cancer in the breast, she may have wished to take the advice of a specialist at Bar with whose fame at the time the world was ringing. Bar-le-Duc had become strangely identified with cures for cancer. In 1663 Pierre Alliot first discovered the value of cauterising as a corrective treatment. And early in 1714 M. le sieur Moat, another Bar doctor, astonished the world with quite a novel method, which was probably humbug, since it is said to have effected [Pg 39]perfectly incredible recoveries. Some months later we find Queen Mary preparing to set out for Bar and also for Plombières. Her bad health and an abnormally wet summer put a stop to the project. This was just about the time of the death of Queen Anne, when Leopold felt as if he were politically walking on eggs. He had given so much umbrage in England already, that every further offence was to be carefully avoided. If the Queen, as was to be anticipated, in going to Plombières, were also to visit Lunéville, that must of a certainty give rise to misunderstandings. So he sends officers and messengers to inquire and dissuade, as diplomatically as he can. The Queen had been so ill as to be given up, and he did not wish to pain her. But above all things he had to think of himself.
On very different grounds the tidings of the Queen's impending visit also fluttered the good people of Bar not a little. They had never entertained a queen. So on the 13th of July we find the heads of the town council carefully inquiring of the Marquis de Gerbévillers, the governor of the district, what is the proper ceremonial to be observed. Thereupon a deputation is named, and a present of 16 lb. of dragées and forty-eight pots de confitures is voted, besides a feuillade of wine for distribution, and a special vin d'honneur, to be presented to the royal visitor by the Marquis de Bassompierre, on behalf of the town. The Barisiens are very proud both of their confitures and of their wine. Both may be had now, presumably, in the same quality in which they were tendered to Queen Mary. The confitures consist of currants, red[Pg 40] and white, preserved whole, in a syrup made sweet to excess. But the flavour is good. The vins de Bar have long been reckoned a delicacy, more particularly the clairet—a variety having a colour half-way between red and white. The wine is highly praised by patriotic writers as being "excellent, délicat, léger, et bien-faisant," and more than any other "ami de l'homme." And if you only stick to that wine alone, and take care not to mix, you can drink, they protest, absolutely whatever quantity you like, without feeling one whit the worse next day. To an English palate, I am bound to say, the wine is apt to present itself as intolerably sour.
After all, the Queen's visit did not come off till spring, 1715. That was, again, a most inconvenient time for the Duke of Lorraine, on much the same grounds as before. He had just made up that nasty tiff with the English Court, arising out of the publication of the Pretender's manifesto. King George was at length going to receive his envoy, M. de Lambertye. At such a juncture the classical "pig among roses" would have been ten times more welcome to nervous Leopold than Mary of Modena and her son at his Court. So he writes to Louis, begging him for heaven's sake to stop the Queen from coming, and despatches Baron Förstner post-haste to Bar to remonstrate with the Pretender. Neither attempt proved successful—but the Queen's visit did not do much harm. Her ill-health again came in as a special providence, detaining her till after Whitsuntide. She set out incognita with what is represented as a very modest train—namely, four coaches-and-six, one littière, and quelques chaises. The Duke had the good grace to receive her with a most[Pg 41] hearty welcome. He sent the Marquis de Bassompierre, her son's great friend, to meet her at Châlons. Her son met her at Moutiers, on the border of the Barrois. For safety the forests were once more stocked with soldiers. On the 22d of June, Mary made her entry into Bar, putting up in James's house in the Rue des Tanneurs. The local grandees and the town council turned out in force to receive her, the Marquis de Bassompierre presenting the dragées and the vin d'honneur, while the bailli, M. de Gerbévillers, did the honours on behalf of the Duke, whose Great Chamberlain he was. On the 25th Mary and James proceed to Commercy, where everybody expresses himself and herself delighted with cette sainte Reine. On the 18th of July the Queen arrives at Nancy, where the Duke and Duchess are staying. James was at that time in the midst of plotting. "Milord Drummond" had come from England to confer with him. Ferrari put in one of his suspicious appearances, to the bewilderment and annoyance of the French envoy. An Irish priest who talked indiscreetly about a grand coup à faire was seized and kept under arrest. Couriers were rushing frantically to and fro. Something was "up." And Lord Stair, at Paris, we find, knew of it. But the Queen did not seemingly take a very hopeful view of things. She thanked the Duke very pathetically for his kindness to James. It needed generosity, she avowed, to interest one's self on behalf of a Prince "forsaken by all the world." Her gratitude would be "eternal." The Duchess was most attentive. Both days that the Queen was at Nancy she forestalled her in calling, surprising her at her toilet. At Lunéville, the Duchess had offered[Pg 42] to make the Chevalier's bed with her own hands. From Nancy Mary Beatrice proceeded to Plombières viâ Bar, returning to St Germains on the 22d of August. The waters had not done her much good.
A brief space is due to those rather curious negotiations which were carried on while James was at Bar, to find the Pretender a suitable wife. According to Mrs Strickland this was rather a romantic affair. James was dying to marry his cousin, the Princess d'Este, while, on the other hand, the Princess Sobieska and Mademoiselle de Valois were both dying to marry him. In truth, there was no dying on either side, and the wooing originated, not in James's feeble affections—which were probably occupied to the full extent of their capacity with that young lady on the hill—but in the fertile brain of his scheming and restless host. Mrs Strickland, I ought to say, rather overrates the position of the Princess Sobieska, who eventually did marry the Chevalier; and if there was any romance in her affection, she lived to be cured of it. Being the daughter only of an elective king, a parvenu among royal personages, she was looked upon as a princess rather by courtesy than of right. Even to James, down in the world as he was, Leopold—in a manner her kinsman—did not dare to propose her except as a pis aller, when all hopes elsewhere were extinguished. His first proposal was an Austrian archduchess. He evidently thought the suggestion one which would do him credit. It would be a downright good "Catholic" match. It was bound to help the Pretender, and it might be agreeable to the Emperor, and so secure him, Leopold, very much on the look-out for favours[Pg 43] as he was, gratitude in two influential quarters. The mere moral effect, he says, of an alliance entered into by the premier dynasty of Europe with the outcast Stuart prince must prove immensely to James's advantage. But there was money, too—which James particularly wanted—much money, heaped up in the Hofburg. James assented—though with nothing seemingly of eagerness; for it took him some months to grasp the full meaning of the idea. The proposal was made in March, 1714—long before the Princess Sobieska was thought of; and, as Leopold reports with unmistakable satisfaction, it was assez gouté at Vienna. Only, the Princess asked for—the younger daughter of the late Emperor—was very young, in fact, a child in the nursery, and the marriage could not possibly take place for some considerable time. So, the Emperor thought, the matter had best be kept quiet. Nothing daunted, rather encouraged, Leopold, with James's approval, returned to the charge in June. If the younger archduchess was too young—very well, let it be the elder, Elizabeth, who was at that time heir-presumptive to the crown. (For Maria Theresa, the reigning Emperor's daughter, was not yet born.) Vienna took time to consider. James's appetite grew keen, and in July we find him plying the Emperor with two memorials, drawn up with the help of Nairne. So elated did he grow over his supposed brilliant prospects, that he returned very cold answers indeed to Cardinal Gualterio's well-meant representations in favour of a union with another lady—was it the Princess d'Este, Gualterio's own countrywoman? There was no money in that quarter. Accordingly James haughtily pronounces the marriage[Pg 44] "pas faisable." But he pushes his suit at Vienna. It must be, he urges in his first memorial, altogether to the Emperor's interest that the Archduchess Elizabeth should be married to "une personne qui ait assés de naissance et d'autres bonnes qualités personelles pour estre choisi après lui à remplir sa place." Such a person James considers himself to be. And he puts his case in this way. Either the English crown will fall to him or it will not. If it does, well, then, there he is, a most desirable, wealthy, and influential nephew-in-law. If it does not, there he is, again, the fittest person in the world to succeed to the Imperial crown. In the second memorial, issued shortly after, he presses some further points. Hanover must not be allowed to grow too powerful. Indeed, as a Protestant Power, it is too "formidable" already, and the "Duc d'Hannovre" is "un redoutable Rival." But, "il est certain qu'il (l'empereur) a moins à apprehender de l'Angleterre sans le Duc d'Hannovre que de le Duc d'Hannovre sans l'Angleterre." Therefore—the reasoning does not seem quite clear—James ought to be supported; or else, certainly, the Duc d'Hannovre should be made to forego one of the two crowns—either Hanover or England, a proposal which James pronounces perfectly "juste et nullement impracticable." The proposal does not, however, "fetch" the Emperor, who goes on procrastinating. But, on the other hand, Louis XIV, gets wind of it, though he was not meant to, through D'Audriffet, and grows uneasy, throwing all the cold water that he can upon the scheme. Meanwhile in England things go against the Pretender. Queen Anne dies, King George succeeds, and, in spite of James's[Pg 45] solemn protest, addressed to the Powers in English, French, and Latin, England seems perfectly content. After this it is not surprising to find Leopold, when James returns to the subject of his marriage, shaking his head discouragingly, and pointing out that the Pretender's matrimonial value has fallen appreciably in the market. He must no longer look "so high." Besides, the Emperor will not care to embroil himself by such a marriage with the Government of King George, with which he has struck up a friendship which, in Louis XIV.'s words, promises to prove alike "solide et sincère." Now, there is the Princess Sobieska! Leopold thinks that he could manage that. Through her mother she is a niece of the Empress Eleanor. Therefore, to a certain extent, James will still secure the Hapsburg interest. As for marrying the Archduchess, that is out of the question. James does not see it. He goes on harping upon the Archduchess Elizabeth, and worrying poor Leopold to resume negotiations.
Leopold found worry of a more serious sort besetting him, on account of James, in a different quarter. To satisfy France was all very well. But what in this matter satisfied France offended England. Now, England itself was very little to the Duke of Lorraine. Louis XIV. kept assuring him that English complaints and remonstrances should have "point de suite," and that he would see him through the business. He had "nothing to fear." Accordingly, when the English Houses of Parliament began, very unreasonably, to memorialise Queen Anne in favour of moving for James's expulsion from "ungrateful" Lorraine, though the Court of St Germains[Pg 46] showed itself, as we are told, "fort picquée de ses addresses," Leopold simply smiled, and assured James that he would see that those addresses remained "inutiles." He did not quite like it when Baron Förstner, his envoy in London, reported the two parties in England, both "Thoris" and "Wighs," to be unanimous on the point. James himself, whom he consulted without any result, confessed himself in an "embarras de prendre le meilleur party." However, Bolingbroke had advised Förstner that no notice should be taken; the English nation "se portoit tantot a une chose et tantot a une autre;" Parliament was about to be dissolved, and in the new House the whole thing might be forgotten. King Louis explained the resolution as a Whig dodge, a shibboleth, designed to make it clear who were the Pretender's supporters. However, the remonstrances went on. Two bishops made themselves ridiculous by very indiscreet and officious interference. The Duke judges that this "n'estoit qu'une grimace de la Cour d'Angleterre." But after a time he grows irritable, and recalls his envoy—quite as much in disgust as for economy. That does not mend matters—no more does the Duke's letter, written at the French king's suggestion for communication to Prior. D'Audriffet's despatch of 3d May, 1714, shows that Leopold at that time quite expected that he might be made to give effect to the English demand. Meanwhile Queen Anne dies. James issues his proclamation, at which George and our Parliament take needlessly great offence, and an icy coldness springs up between the two Courts—just under circumstances under which coldness is least acceptable to Leopold. For, however little Queen Anne might have[Pg 47] had it in her power to cross him, her successor is Elector of Hanover as well as King of England, fast friends with the Emperor, and has a great say in the bestowal of ecclesiastical patronage in Germany, for which Leopold, on behalf of his "near and dear relations" has an insatiable appetite. Accordingly he grows uncomfortable. He notices with alarm, so the letters show, that George takes an unusually long time advising him of the late Queen's death, and when the advice comes, it says nothing about his own accession. Anxious to make up the breach, Leopold at once despatches a special envoy, Lambertye, to present his congratulations. To the Duke's dismay George will not receive him. Leopold, however, bids him stay where he is, and addresses to the king his well-known memorial, which must certainly be pronounced dignified in tone and just in substance. James's proclamation, Leopold shows, was issued without any knowledge or consent on his part. Privately, he causes it to be explained that he is simply obeying dictatorial orders from Versailles. But—"on a beau leur dire," writes de Bosque, D'Audriffet's substitute, on the 31st of October, "que la France a vn pouuoir arbitraire sur le Duc de Lorrain et ses Etats, cela no les contente plus." The poor Duke grows most uncomfortable. However, in January the matter is made up, and King George consents to receive Lambertye at last—at the very time when Queen Mary Beatrice threatens once more to trouble relations just settling down again, with her visit to Lunéville. In any case Lambertye's mission did not bring Lorraine any good—except, says Noel, it be the importation of a new variety of potato, which[Pg 48] he carried home from England, and which proved much superior to the old Lorrain sort.
If our statesmen had little right to call upon Leopold to expel James, they had of course every reason to be vigilant. And they do not appear to have failed often in that duty. To be quite fair, James's followers, on the whole, made the task pretty easy for them. They were always plotting, but at the same time also always letting out their secret—a tippler talking in his cups; an officer confiding intelligence to his sweetheart; a bungling conspirator boasting in very big words. Long before October, 1715, when the great "invasion" at length took place, we have references to some intended move. All is promptly reported to England, and to Paris, where, after his arrival at his post, Stair, when not engaged in smuggling goods for his friends,—"poil de chèvre stockings of different colours of grey, and long enough of the feet and legs" for the Duke of Argyll, besides knives, spoons, and forks of the St. Cloud pattern, all with "chiney" handles to them; a "bodyes," a "monto," and a "peticoate" for Lady Harriet Godolphin, to oblige the Duchess of Marlborough; moreover, silk gowns for the Countess of Loudoun—spares neither pains nor money to obtain the very best and most prompt intelligence. On the whole, he is admirably served, though occasionally he finds himself on a wrong scent, and even at the critical time, notwithstanding Mrs. Strickland's statement as to Mademoiselle du Châtelet's jealous peaching, it seems as if Bolingbroke were after all right, and our Ambassador had been put upon the right tack too late.
At length, after much posting backwards and [Pg 49]forwards of trusted but untrustworthy messengers and confidants, after more than one false alarm, and one very provoking act of treachery (on the part of a bankrupt banker), after much dissuasion from the Duke of Lorraine, who seems to have exhausted all his powers of reasonable argument in vain, after stealthy visits said to have been paid by Bolingbroke and Ormonde to Bar, and by Mar to Commercy, the great move takes place. To the end Leopold appears to have considered James's recall by the spontaneous act of the English nation a probable contingency. Now he warns him that a Hanoverian king on the English throne will play his game far more effectually than he himself possibly can by taking up arms—that, in the face of the unpopularity which the foreign ruler is sure to bring upon himself, if left alone, James will, by raising the flag of rebellion, only be cutting his own throat. However, James will pay no heed. Learning prudence, at any rate, as the time for action draws nearer, both the Chevalier and his friends grow close and uncommunicative, so as to extract complaints even from D'Audriffet, who, having been previously let into all the harmless little secrets of the plot at first hand, now finds himself reduced to coaxing intelligence out of "une personne attachée au Chevalier de St. Georges, qui est de mes amies." However, in October, just before the departure actually takes place, Leopold confides to him that James has expressed himself resolved to take his fortune into his own hand. He has been advised from England and Scotland that circumstances will never be more favourable. If he misses this chance, he will have no other. "C'est tout gagner ou tout perdre."
[Pg 50]At this time it is that James addresses to his friend Cardinal Gualterio at Rome a curious "Mémoire sur un Lit," which seems worth recording. He begs Gualterio to purchase, at once, as if for himself, "un grand bois de lit à la francoise propre à coucher deux personnes, avec un dossier, mais point des pilliers. Le fond du lit de bon coutil—renforcé avec sangles." Also, "deux bons mattelas de bonne laine d'Angre. proportionnés à la grandeur du lit." His Eminence, James adds, will easily guess the purpose for which the bed is designed—a purpose depending upon "un certain cas qu'on espere pouuoir arriver bientôt, mais qui doit etre tres secret jusqu'a ce qu'il soit asseuré." He adds that he wants "ni couuertures, ni tour de lit, ni ciel de lit, parcequ'on a tout cela ici." The whole thing reminds one of that famous musical armchair which was ordered on behalf of Napoleon III., to be delivered at Berlin in 1870.
The final escape of James was, on the whole, managed with secresy and some skill, though things went a little untowardly. Stair, who was sparing no pains to keep the Pretender watched to his every step, was a little deceived, partly by that false information which Bolingbroke says that he purposely gave him, partly by the equivocal bearing of the Regent and Torcy, who were both secretly befriending the Chevalier. Certainly Stair got his correct intelligence too late to be of much use, and so sent to Château Thierry to have James seized after the bird had flown. Cadogan in Brussels was better informed. He had stationed a "gentleman from Mecklenburgh," M. de Pless, at Nancy, ostensibly to attend the Academy, really to play the[Pg 51] spy upon the Pretender. A letter from the Regent to D'Audriffet shows that the object of his mission was perfectly understood in the French capital. The news of the Chevalier's departure comes out through the indiscretion of some one in the secret arriving from Commercy—and immediately Pless takes formal leave of the Duke, and hurries without a moment's delay off to Brussels, where Cadogan has a courier ready, who, but for provokingly prolonged contrary winds, would have reached England in excellent time.
Finding the Chevalier's mind made up, Leopold, wishing to be kind to the last, sends his protégé as a parting gift, along with an affectionate valedictory letter, the acceptable present of 27,000 louis in gold, which James at once stows away in his private strong-box. This, we read, he was in the habit of always carrying about with him, placing it under his bed at night, and allowing no one to come near it. How he managed to transport it when riding on horseback from St Malo to Dunkirk, we are not told.
It is well known that James started from Commercy on the 28th of October, 1715, in disguise. But the precise manner of his escape is not generally quite correctly related. It explains why, for a full fortnight after James's disappearance, newspapers still go on reporting his supposed doings in Lorraine. The escape was of course abetted by the Prince de Vaudémont, who, to make it possible, invited a large company to Commercy for the day appointed, to hunt in his forests. James went out to hunt, and James apparently came back in the evening. But the James who returned was not the James who had gone out with the Pretender, but a follower of[Pg 52] his, who bore a striking resemblance to his master, and had more than once been mistaken for him. Who this gentleman was I have not been able to trace. With this man James had exchanged clothes, unseen by any one, out in the forest. And so, as the Duc de Villeroy writes to Madame de Maintenon (the letter is in the Paris MSS), "Il partit misterieusement de Commerci en chaise roulante, vestu du violet en Ecclesiastique, avec un petit colet, malgré la vigilance des Espions, sans qu'ils ayent pû auoir ni vent ni nouvelles de son depart, que deux ou trois jours après sa sortie." The Pretender pursued his journey, carefully avoiding highroads, reaching Peterhead safely in the end, though only after much travelling backwards and forwards, taking pains to elude Stair's spies, who were placed at all important points. At Nonancourt he narrowly missed being caught, as we know, by Captain Douglas and two other emissaries, evidently what Bunyan calls "ill-favoured ones." For the impression became general in France—over which the editor of 'The Annals of the Earls of Stair,' Mr Murray Graham, grows exceedingly indignant—that these men were assassins retained to destroy the Pretender by Lord Stair, whose passports they carried, and who promptly came to their rescue when they were brought before the Grand Prévôt de la Haute Normandie. Very probably they looked cut-throats. One of them was armed. And as cut-throats, not spies, the maîtresse de la poste cautioned James against them, helping him off, to save his life, in a disguise and with a guide provided by herself. As supposed cut-throats they were seized by the police, and as cut-throats they were brought before the judge.[Pg 53] Stair's interference probably it was that saved their lives. But all his explanations and all his protestations could not for a long time remove from the mind of the French people the impression that the men were assassins. The Regent, we hear, released them without inquiry, simply to avoid scandal.
How the Pretender's enterprise ended we all know. He does not appear to have been particularly attentive to his late host, the Duke of Lorraine. On the 24th of October he sent him a formal farewell; but on the 7th November we have the Duke stating as a grievance that he is without news. During November we find people in Paris growing remarkably confident. On the 2d of December Lord Stair complains that "les plus sages à la Cour" are just again beginning to treat the Chevalier as Pretender. Until two days before he was "King of England" to every one in Paris, "et tout le monde avoit levé le masque." There was not a single Frenchman, having any connection with the Court, who so much as set foot in Stair's house. Everybody thought that the Stuart cause was about to triumph. But the 11th of January, 1716, saw James back at Gravelines, "d'où il repassa en Lorraine," say the MSS. in the Archives Nationales. Mrs Strickland will have it that he went to Paris, where Bollingbroke advised him to go straight into Lorraine, without first asking leave of the Duke—which advice he did not follow. Independent Lorrain sources state that he passed through Lorraine, "courant la poste a 9 chevaux." As he had left all his goods and chattels at Bar-le-Duc, that seems the more likely version. Before his departure Duke Leopold had assured the[Pg 54] Pretender that his dominions would always be open to him, and that he "pourroit compter sur luy en tout ce qui en pourroit dependre." In March, however, under altered circumstances, we find him advising Queen Mary Beatrice "for the second time," that he cannot again receive her son into his duchy. The Pretender himself seems to have taken the first warning. For we read in the 'Gazette de Hollande' that his Domestiques et Equipages were removed from Bar to Paris in February. According to M. Konarski (I have not verified the entry in the archives, but it is doubtless correct) James left Bar on the 9th of February, "sans adresser ses remerciments et ses adieux au duc Leopold," says Noel; "comme un escroc vulgaire," says M. Konarski. "Ne se contentant pas de largent que Léopold lui donnait il emprunta des sommes assez fortes aux seigneurs et partit sans les rembourser." The sum of 15,000 francs paid to his friend M. de Bassompierre, which appears in the official accounts, is only one such debt. "Cette ingratitude de la part du Chevalier de Saint Georges," adds Noel, "indignait toute la Cour." People spoke to Leopold about it. "Gentlemen," said the Duke, "you forget that this Prince is in misfortune, and that he was a king." On another occasion he remarked to M. Bardin:—"He has done me justice; he has thought that I have simply performed my duty in assisting an unfortunate."
If the direct benefits which the hospitality extended to James brought to Lorraine were less than nil, the indirect were scarcely more valuable. No doubt, the Pretender having set the example, not a few Roman Catholics from the United Kingdom, so Noel relates,[Pg 55] sought the same hospitable refuge. Others came—among them both Noel and Marchal name the elder Pitt—to take advantage of the new Academy opened by Leopold, and rapidly blossoming into greatness under such distinguished masters as Duval and Vayringe. Some of these men brought plenty of money with them, and their liberal fees went to swell acceptably the new professors' receipts. But the number of impecunious persons, more particularly Irish, who flowed to the Lorrain Court to prey upon Leopold's generosity, seems to have been even larger. "Nous regorgeons d'Irlandais," writes the Duke's friend Bardin in 1719—Irlandais who evidently boasted but little money and less gratitude. Bardin complains of an exceptionally bad case of the latter sort. Leopold mildly replies. "I helped him, not for his sake, but for my own."
In 1749, when the Duc fainéant, Stanislas Leszinski, "simple gentilhomme lithuanien," was holding his gay little Court at Lunéville, with Voltaire and Madame du Châtelet to lend brilliancy to it, and Madame de Boufflers to preside as elderly Venus, we read that the whole company were deeply touched when the great French writer, as was his wont, read out aloud his just completed chapter on the Stuarts, in the 'Siècle de Louis XV.' Everybody had a regret for the hardly used dynasty. Scarcely had Voltaire closed his book, when in rushed a messenger, bringing the tidings that James's son, Charles Edward, doubly an exile after the failure of his rebellion of 1745, had, on the demand of the English Government, been seized at Paris on leaving the Opera. "Oh heaven!" exclaimed Voltaire,[Pg 56] "is it possible that the king can suffer such an indignity, and that his glory can have been tarnished by a stain which all the water of the Seine will not wash away!" The whole company was moved. Voltaire retired gloomily into his own room, threw down his MS. into a corner, and did not take the work up again till he found himself amid the more prosaic surroundings of Berlin. Very shortly after Charles Edward himself knocked at Stanislas' door. What he did during the nearly three years that he was a refugee at Lunéville, it seems impossible to ascertain. The French State Papers are silent—at Lunéville not a tradition has survived. His doings evidently were not considered worth recording. The drama of Stuart kingship was played out. The dream had come to an end. And so Courts grew cold.
A fate not so very dissimilar—except for one brilliant saving incident—awaited those very Dukes who had shown hospitality so freely to the Stuarts. The Stuart Pretendership and the Lorrain Dukedom came to an end at pretty nearly the same time. Hanover elbowed out the one, France the other. The Stuarts went down for good. The Lorrains found themselves transplanted to Vienna, and crowned with the Imperial diadem. They brought their new country good qualities and manners insuring popularity. But they brought it no luck. For once the old Austrian distich spoke wrong:—
"Bella gerunt alii, tu, felix Austria, nube!
Nam quae Mars aliis, dat tibi regna Venus."
Under the Lorrain Emperors came the Seven Years' War, which lost Austria Silesia; the Napoleonic wars,[Pg 57] which lost much territory in the west; 1859, which lost part of her Italian possessions; 1866, which tore away the rest, and, moreover, turned Austria out of Germany. But the Lorrain Emperors have not forgotten their old virtue of hospitality. It may seem a strange whim of fate that at the present time the principal among those dispossessed sovereigns and unrecognised Pretenders who have flocked for protection under the hospitable "Double Cross," now carried back almost to its Eastern birthplace, should be the direct descendant and representative, six generations down, of the relentless and troublesome rival of that same Stuart James, whom, with not a little risk and cost to himself, the last really Lorrain Duke generously sheltered in the years from 1713 to 1716.
English visitors at Metz—there ought to be more, for there is not a little that is interesting to be seen in and around the old imperial city—are likely to have pointed out to them some venerable house or other, which, their guides will tell them, was nearly four hundred years ago the residence of a great English noble, a pretender to the crown, and the terror of Henry VIII.—the "Duke of Suffolk." Some guides may even style him "The King of England," since their distinguished townsman, Philippe de Vigneulles, gives him that title. In all probability the house shown will be the wrong one. For there is a great deal of loose and inaccurate archæology prevalent in these parts, and one old house is very apt to be confounded with another. I myself have had a leading French archæologist in Metz indicating to me an old Merovingian[Pg 59] palace—highly interesting, to be sure—as the "Duc de Sciffort's" quarters. Once the building was plainly ancient, the trifling difference of eight hundred or a thousand years in the several dates made no odds to him. With the kind assistance, however, of the present archivist, Dr. Wolfram, my friend M. des Robert and the help of some old documents preserved in the local library—which in spite of repeated pilferings for the enrichment of Paris, still contains many valuable old manuscripts, I have been able pretty clearly to trace the movements in Metz of our distinguished countryman—who was indeed a claimant to the English crown, and over whose death in the battle of Pavia, in 1525, Henry VIII. exulted with such exuberance of gratitude to Providence, that he ordered a second public thanksgiving to be held "with great joy" on the 16th of March, the triumph proper for the victory of Pavia having—somewhat rashly, as it afterwards turned out—been celebrated on the 9th day of that month.
The story of this Englishman's exploits abroad affords some features of interest. It is a rather curious tale of adventure, love and war, strange escapades, intrigues, and ambition. And it may be worth telling, because I find that in English historical writings there is a gaping hiatus on the subject—which is not a little remarkable. For, considering what an ever-present weight Richard evidently was on the minds of the two last Henrys, to what all but incredible lengths those kings carried their unscrupulous persecution of him—how they offered bribes to kings to deliver him up, and to meaner men to assassinate him—how not a treaty was proposed to foreign potentates but contained[Pg 60] a special clause forbidding the harbouring of this dangerous character—one might have supposed that our chroniclers of the time would have deemed it expedient to tell posterity something about him. Their silence is explained by a strange want of materials. So little turns out to have been known in this country about the great marpeace, that Mr. Burton, in his 'History of Scotland,' actually assigns to him the wrong christian name, calling him "Reginald." Mr Gairdner in his interesting preface to one of the volumes of 'Chronicles and Memorials' goes at some length into the history of Richard's brother Edmund. What became of Richard himself—except that he fell at Pavia—he confesses that he "cannot trace at all accurately." Napier in his 'Notices of Swyncombe and Ewelme' supplies fuller information than any other English writer. But he, too, is evidently at fault for materials. It is practically only foreign sources, very little studied in this country, to which we have to look for information on the subject of how "White Rose" employed the time of his exile, be it self-imposed or involuntary, which made up the main portion of his life.
The chief of such writers is Philippe de Vigneulles, a contemporary of Richard's, and a citizen of Metz, who has left rather curious and pretty full memoirs written in that strange-sounding, uncouth Lorrain French, which was at his time spoken at Metz. The original manuscript, formerly in the possession of Count Emmery, was some time ago purchased at a sale by M. Prost, the well-known Lorrain archæologist. From it M. des Robert, another well-known writer, specifically connected with the ancient city of Metz—which only patriotic[Pg 61] considerations have led him to desert—has drawn the information which some years ago he incorporated in a little monograph. Even this monograph leaves some gaps. And the author falls into one or two odd mistakes—which are no doubt excusable in a foreigner. For instance, he confounds the "rebel and traitor" Richard de la Pole with one of the most faithful followers of the Tudor kings, Sir Richard Pole, of Lordington, in ascribing to his hero, first, the office of Chamberlain to Prince Arthur, and later on the fatherhood of Reginald Pole the cardinal. But his pamphlet is decidedly useful, as supplying clues, which I have been able to follow up successfully on the spot.
Richard de la Pole was the last member of a family which, within the space of about a century of strange vicissitudes, ran through all the stages of rapid rise, almost to the height of the throne, and no less sudden, humiliating descent, to attainder, execution, confiscation, and dishonour. I cannot stop here to tell their history at length. Genealogists have been careful to point out that the French prefix de la proves no Norman descent. There is no "de la Pole," nor any name resembling it, to be met with in the Battle Roll. The De la Poles' origin was, in fact, so humble, that their first distinguished member, Michael, the prosperous merchant—to whom his native town, Hull, raised a monument in 1871—afterwards Lord Chancellor of England and Knight of the Garter, is described in Camden as "basely born." His "base birth," it is true, has been disproved. But that only makes a difference of two or three generations. When Richard and his brothers came into the world, the family had had five generations of titled[Pg 62] distinction and notoriety—partly of honour and partly of disgrace. Only one Suffolk of this creation—Richard's father—seems to have died at home and in his bed. And even his death was caused by "grief for the ruin of his family." The Lord Chancellor expired almost exactly a century before of "a broken heart" in exile. His son fell a victim to "dissentery" before Harfleur. The next Earl was honourably killed at Agincourt. His son, again, the "Duke of Suffolk" denounced in early ballads, lived to disgrace that dukedom which he had first obtained, and to die by lynch law under the form of a trial, for having had a hand in the murder of Humphrey, the "good" Duke of Gloucester, and in the surrender of Normandy and Aquitaine to France. This "bad" Duke's son rose once more to high distinction. King Edward IV. actually conferred upon him the hand of his sister Elizabeth; and Richard III., on the death of his own only son, appointed his eldest son John—created Earl of Lincoln—next heir to the throne. That appointment proved in after-time a rather questionable boon to the family. For it involved both John and his brothers in perils, and intrigues, and persecution. The Earl of Lincoln fell in the battle of Stoke, fighting for Simnel, the pretending Earl of Warwick, and by his treason and disgrace caused the death of his father. Of course his estates and titles were held to be forfeited. That forfeiture notwithstanding, the Earl of Lincoln's next brother was admitted to some part of the succession, both of estate and of title, by amicable arrangement with King Henry VII. These peerage cases were dealt with in those days in a very different manner from[Pg 63] what they are now, as appears from the fact, that only some eight years previously, in Edward IV.'s reign, the De la Poles' rather distant cousin, the then Duke of Bedford—a Neville, not a Russell—had been deprived of his peerage by Act of Parliament on the score of poverty.
Edmund de la Pole bargained with Henry VII., and recovered part of his brother's possessions and also the humbler of his titles in the peerage, by sacrificing the higher. He was admitted to the peerage as "Earl of Suffolk." Notwithstanding his renunciation, he, later on, when in exile, again claimed the dukedom. Edmund had in his youth been reported by the University of Oxford in a letter addressed to his uncle, King Edward IV., "a penetrating, eloquent, and brilliant genius"—anything but which he proved himself to be. His letters read like the writing of a man of very poor education, even judged by the standard of those unlettered days. And at Court he played his cards so unskilfully, that he soon became, from a rather petted hanger-on, a declared "rebel and traitor," persecuted with all the unrelenting meanness and malice that the two first Tudor kings—the first, at any rate, not feeling very secure on his throne—were masters of. That almost necessarily involved his younger brother Richard in a like fate—which Richard did nothing to evade. Edmund, we read, had the misfortune to kill a "mean" person, whom he presumed to chastise for insulting him. For this he was brought before the King's Bench and adjudged guilty. The king readily granted a pardon. But the Earl took the indignity of his mere trial so much to heart, that he very[Pg 64] unwisely fled die country. People said that he had taken refuge at the Court of his aunt Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy, which was then notoriously the gathering-place of malcontent Yorkists. This turned out incorrect. But the rumour may have helped to prejudice Henry against him. Edmund returned home for Prince Arthur's wedding in 1501, and appears to have been at pains to make his loyalty know, and to have been outwardly well received. But almost immediately afterwards he ran away a second time. And as he forthwith proclaimed himself a pretender to the throne, and obtained from the Emperor Maximilian a promise of material help—the loan of 4000 of his troops, wherewith to make good his pretention—it is not surprising that Henry should have set all his ample apparatus of crafty persecution at work against a man become so dangerous a foe. But it is surprising to find him stooping so very low in his recourse to dirty expedients. The State Papers show that bribes were offered all round—to the Emperor, to the King of France, Louis XII., to Philip of Castile and Burgundy—as much as twelve thousand crowns in gold—for Edmund's surrender or despatch. At length, in 1506, Fortune put Philip into Henry's power—a storm driving him on our coast. And Henry meanly took advantage of that opportunity to extort from the Spaniard an undertaking to surrender Edmund—then detained at Namur—agreeing, in return, to Philip's stipulation, that the prisoner's life should be spared. That promise he kept to the letter. Edmund was detained in the Tower until Henry's death—and then executed on Tower Hill by Henry VIII., in obedience to a direction[Pg 65] set down with incredible rancour in his father's will. Dugdale suggests that, Edmund being so popular as a pretender, Henry VIII. did not like to leave the kingdom for a war projected in France, with his rival remaining in England alive. Another report says, that he was beheaded on the ground of correspondence proved to have taken place between himself and his brother, then a general in the French army.
Richard had taken service under the King of France as early as 1492. Charles VIII. detecting in him even then that brilliant capacity which made him in after-life one of the foremost generals of his day, intrusted to him the command of 6000 lansquenets, at whose head he mastered the difficult but valuable art of maintaining discipline among a most unruly, but at the same time most serviceable host, and qualified himself for that peculiar kind of warfare in which he subsequently gathered splendid laurels. By this early favour Charles linked to his Court an officer who, as Gaillard says, became one of "cette pleiade de grands Capitaines qui illustrèrent les règnes de Louis XII. et François I., et portèrent si haut l'honneur de nos armes—Bayard, la Palisse, la Trémouille, duc de Gueldres, Robert de la Marck [better known as Fleurange, "Le Jeune Aventureux"], et la famille de Rohan." Of all these famous captains—and, moreover, of Francis of Angoulême himself—Richard was a comrade-in-arms and familiar friend. And nobody seemed to be able to manage the wild and "indociles" mercenaries, who were ready to place themselves at the service of any sovereign who would pay them, like himself. Dreaded foes—and to the people scarcely less dreaded [Pg 66]allies—were those "bandes noires" of Northern Germany, who, like the modern Prussians, bore on their banner the colours of black and white. Before Pampeluna—of gloomy memory—they mutinied even against Bayard, "striking"—according to the most approved notions of nineteenth-century trades-unionism—at the most critical juncture for the concession of double pay. Bayard and Suffolk between them, however, soon reduced them to obedience. Brantôme relates that it was said of the lansquenets that after St. Peter had refused them entrance into heaven, their troubled souls could not even obtain admission into hell. The very devils were afraid of this wild company. With these rough warriors did Richard fight his battles, and fought them so well, that there was not one of the three French kings whom he served, who did not feel moved to reward his services with a substantial pension, in addition to his open thanks. Ever foremost in battle, Richard's company "receveyd," as John Stile reports to Henry VIII., "most hurte and los of men then any other of that party." And on that fateful day which cost Richard his life, and Francis I. "tout fors l'honneur," the king declared that, if all his troops had but done their duty like Richard's lansquenets, the victory would have been his. Francis was especially beholden to these rough soldiers, because, by winning for him the battle of Marignano, when his crown was still young and unsettled upon his head, they raised him to high prestige, and completely altered his position in Europe. "Ce gros garçon gâtera tout," Louis XII. had said—leaving 1800 livres of debts for the "gros garçon" to pay. The prediction proved wrong.
[Pg 67]When Richard de la Pole took service under Charles VIII., his father was recently dead "of grief," and his family were under a cloud, owing to Lincoln's rising in 1487. The "affable" king was much pleased with his captain, and after the siege of Boulogne assigned to him a pension of 7000 écus. At the conclusion of the treaty of Etaples, Henry VII. began his shabby course of persecution against Richard, from which he and his son never desisted while Richard was alive, demanding from Charles the surrender of his foe. Charles, however, flatly refused the demand. King Charles's pension, it is sadly to be feared, lapsed with his life in 1498; for in 1505, and thereabouts, we find Richard in absolute destitution—left, indeed, in pawn by his brother Edmund for that brother's debts with the citizens of Aix-la-Chapelle. (Sir Henry Ellis, with a little too much knowledge of German geography, places Richard at "Aken on the Elbe." It is, however, perfectly clear that the place of his detention was Aachen—that is, what we generally call Aix-la-Chapelle, but for which both Edmund and Richard adopted various fancy spellings, as, indeed, they did for most of their words, from the simple article upward.)
As Richard's fate is so closely bound up with Edmund's, it may be convenient to review at one rapid glance the fortunes of that poor nobleman after his flight in 1501. He first repaired to Imst, in the Tyrol, to seek help from the Emperor Maximilian. The Emperor Maximilian gave him ample encouragement, drew up an agreement, kept his confidential agent as representative at his own Court, and sent him with letters of recommendation to Aix-la-Chapelle, where, hoping[Pg 68] to obtain further succour, Edmund managed to outrun the constable, and was fain to leave his brother as pledge. In spring 1502 it was proposed that Edmund, to make good his claim, should land in England from Denmark. In that same year, however, Henry talked over the Emperor, and concluded a treaty with him, by which Maximilian bound himself not to allow any English rebels to reside in his dominions, "even though they be of the rank of dukes." That was, there can be no doubt, specially aimed at Edmund and Richard. Edmund now despaired of help in the quarter appealed to, and transferred his attentions to the Court of the Count Palatine. In 1504 he entered Guelders, with a view to proceeding to Frisia and obtaining pecuniary assistance—so he writes to his pawned brother at Aachen—from Duke George of Saxony. The Duke of Guelders, greedy to secure—as Archduke Philip, his cousin, writes to Henry—the reward which he is likely to receive from Henry, plays the traitor and enters into an intrigue with Philip of Burgundy—it is always the same Philip—who eventually "interns" Edmund at Namur.
Poor Richard was in sore straits all the time. "Here I ly," he writes to his brother in very curious English, "in gret peyne and pouerte for your Grace, and no manner of comffort I have of your Grace.... Sir, be my trothe ye dele ffery hardly with me." "Sir," he writes again another time, "I beseche your Grace, send me some what to help me with all." He reports that—while Edmund was at Namur—the indignant "bourgoys of Aix" have sent a deputation to Philip to see what redress they could obtain. And coming[Pg 69] back empty-handed they had denounced Edmund to Richard as "le pluis false homme que oncques fuyt de sa parole," and threatened to expose him at all the courts of Europe. At the same time Richard is made uncomfortable by the fact that he knows that Henry has offered the burgesses of Aix bribes—as much as 5000 crowns in gold—if they will deliver him "three lieuwes out of the town of Aix"—"and he will pay them," he significantly adds.
From Namur, Edmund, with a mixture of rather too ingenuous prudence and folly, as a last shift, offers a reconciliation to Henry, but fixes his own terms exorbitantly high. This offer, as has been already related, sealed his doom. He died by the executioner in 1513.
His death left Richard the more or less recognised "White Rose" claimant to the throne of England. (What became of his two elder brothers, Humphrey and Edward—both of whom took orders, and one of whom was Archdeacon of Richmond—we are not told.) Somehow or other he had managed to get away from Aix in 1506. For in that year we find the Emperor reporting to Henry that he had seized the French "orators," who had proceeded to Hungary by way of Venice. He had looked out, as desired, for Richard, but had not been able to find him among the company. In April, 1507, however, Richard writes, dating his letter "Budae," to the Bishop of Liége—one of the De la Marcks with whom at Metz he was to become intimate—in Latin, which is very much better than his English, though that is not saying much.
King Henry having, in 1509, given proofs of his peculiar goodwill towards the De la Poles, by excepting[Pg 70] them in distinct terms from a general pardon, we cannot be surprised to learn that Richard—"Blanche Rose" they called him in France—had grown busy scheming against his sovereign. Louis XII. was then at war with Henry, and it served Louis's purpose to turn to account the "instrument de trouble que le roi dans l'occassion pouvait faire agir en Angleterre—une étincelle qui pouvait y rallumer les anciennes incendies." In 1512 we have John Stile reporting to Henry, that "your sayd rebel was mayde a Capytan of the Almaynys that went you to Navar, where many of the Almaynys now of late be slayne." "The Almaynys" were Richard's lansquenets, who indeed suffered great "hurte and los" in that ill-starred campaign. Richard fought there side by side with Bayard, and half starved with him on bread made of millet; and though their defeat meant disaster to the King of Navarre, the army were not altogether sorry to be called back to Artois, invaded by the English. Richard's command of the "French fleet for a rising in England," recorded by Peter Martyr, was probably only of brief duration. For we find him again at the head of his 6000 lansquenets at Therouenne, besieged by the English, and taking part in the inglorious "battle of the Spurs"—so named because the French, taken by surprise while riding, not their war-horses, but their "hackneys," trusted more to their spurs than to their swords. That day of Guinegate helped to bring peace to England and France—and to send Richard to Metz. The Duc de Longueville, taken prisoner on that day, turned his captivity to account for negotiating a treaty of peace—one condition of which was that the Princess[Pg 71] Mary, Henry VIII.'s sister, should be married to the all but dying Louis XII.—as the clerics of the Basoche said, "Une hacquenée pour le porter bientost et plus doucement en enfer ou en paradis." Another condition was, that Richard should be given up. To this Louis would not agree, but answered in almost the same terms which his cousin had used, "Qu'il aimait mieux perdre tout ce qu'il possédait que de le conserver en violant l'hospitalité." Some people say that this was mere bounce. But it had its effect.
A compromise was arranged, in pursuance of which Richard was banished to Metz. That was rather a cool proceeding on the part of the two monarchs, considering that Metz was then a city of the Empire, in no sort of dependence upon either Henry or Louis. The thirteen Jurats of Metz were accordingly a little taken aback when they received Louis's letter to "mes bons amis," begging that his protégé might be "bien reçu et bien advenu"—as well they might, in view of the treaty concluded between England and their master, the Emperor, in 1502, with special reference to this self-styled "duke." However, they got over the difficulty by granting Richard a laissezpasser for eight days, to be indefinitely renewed, while that should prove practicable. So De la Pole went to Metz, England and France got their peace for a time, and Mary—"bien polie, mignoinne, gente et belle" as she was—married Louis, "fort gouteux vies et caducque," as a brief prelude to her clandestine marriage with the new Duke of Suffolk, Brandon.
On the 2d of September, 1514, one Saturday, we read in Vigneulles, "Blanche Rose" entered Metz,[Pg 72] escorted by sixty "chevaliers," several French "gentilhommes," and a guard of honour furnished by the Duke of Lorraine, René II. That was making his entry in good style; and such style, on the whole, he managed to maintain whilst in Metz. It is true that at times he was very short of money, and paid his servants, dressed "in grey and blue," their wages most irregularly; and that even his chaplain could wring his "wages" from him only "a crown at a time." But that was because, what with keeping open house, and entertaining the honoratiores of Metz, betting, gambling, and making love to other men's wives, "the Duke" spent his money faster than he got it. King Louis had allowed him a pension of 6000 écus per annum. King Francis made very much of him, and from time to time "augmented his stipend." The Messins, always inclined to hospitality, took delight in honouring their guest, whose chivalrous manners and easy amiability made him popular. And they never ceased to look upon him as "le vray héritier d'Angleterre qui devoit mieulx estre roy que celui qui l'estoit."
Metz was then in a semi-independent state, which, in the present day, it is interesting to study. Its nationality was German, its language was a curious sort of early French. Its sympathies were French, too. Its seigneurs served in the French army; and at the famous "sacres" of French kings, representatives of the leading families of Metz—the Serrières, the Gournays, the De Heus, the Baudoches, &c.—attended, and considered it an honour to be dubbed knights. To complete the mixture of nationalities, the city was surrounded by Lorraine, then an independent dukedom. The [Pg 73]government of the city was in principle the same as that of other great German free towns—Strassburg, Bâle, Cologne, Mayence, &c. There was nothing at all similar in France. It was divided into six (originally only five) "paraiges." Its head was a maître échevin, at that time appointed afresh every year. It was administered by a council of thirteen Jurats, representing, for the most part, the patrician families. From the judgment of the Thirteen there was no appeal. The larger Council consisted of the Thirteen, with the addition of an indefinite number of "prudhommes" or "wardours"; and for purposes of taxation and similar business, the whole mass of citizens were called together. There were, moreover, standing committees of seven each, appointed to deal severally with matters of war, gates and walls, the collection of taxes, the treasury, and paving. There were also three mayors under the maître échevin and a number of "amans" or amanuenses, answering to modern notaries. The whole city was a thoroughly self-contained little republic.
Among these people Richard de la Pole had come to take up his abode. As a welcome, the Thirteen presented him with two demi-cuves of wine, one red the other "clairet," and, moreover, with twenty-five quarters of oats for his horses. The question of housing so distinguished a guest presented some difficulties. On the advice of Michel Chaverson, the maître échevin for the year, the Thirteen committed Richard to the care of Vigneulles, the writer of the Memoirs, then already a citizen of note and substance. For the first three nights he put Richard up at "la Court St Mairtin," which was presumably near the Church of St[Pg 74] Martin still existing. The Duke of Lorraine's Guard were quartered in what was then the leading hotel, "à l'Ange," which has now disappeared. Nothing suitable offering for a longer residence, Vigneulles prevailed upon his fellow-citizen, Chevalier Claude Baudoche, one of the foremost men in the place, and "Seigneur of Moulins"—the prettily situated village or almost suburb which you pass on your way to the battle-fields of 1870—to lend him for an indefinite period his magnificent mansion called "Paisse Temps," situated on the bank of one arm of the Moselle. The site may still easily be traced. It adjoined the Abbey of St Vincent, of which the church still stands—a beautiful church inside, though insignificant without. Its architectural lines are perfect, and there is some fine stained glass from the famous works of Champigneulles, of Metz, which were in 1875 removed to Bar-le-Duc. The Baudoches were at that time a wealthy and highly influential family in Metz. To-day, such is the instability of things terrestrial, the city knows them no more. About fifty years ago, their last remaining representative was a small watchmaker plying his trade in an insignificant shop in the Rue Fournirue. Of the suitableness of the house secured there could be no question; for in it Pierre Baudoche, Claude's father, had entertained several crowned heads, including the Emperor Maximilian. Here Richard found a lordly home, which he maintained in a lordly style, receiving in turn all the leading personages of Metz and dispensing a princely hospitality.
On New Year's Day, 1515, precisely at midnight, Louis XII. died, not twelve weeks after his marriage with Mary, who—rather uncomfortable under the attentions[Pg 75] paid her by Francis, French historians say—very soon left the Court, to marry the new Duke of Suffolk. The "gros garçon" could not keep quiet long. With an army including no less than 26,000 lansquenets he marched into Italy, to claim his succession to the Milanais, and won the battle of Marignano. In this campaign Richard appears to have found no employment, though his old corps, the lansquenets, covered themselves with glory. The treaty with England, forbidding his employment in France, was still too recent for him to be allowed to lend the aid of his sword. Truth to tell, Henry gained mighty little by Richard's ostensible inaction. Being at Metz, plotting and scheming, he made the king far more uncomfortable than he could possibly have done had he been fighting at Marignano. He was reported to be planning all sorts of enterprises. Evidently he was much feared at home. Wolsey complains that malcontents and men out of work threaten that they will join De la Pole and take part in the impending invasion. On Henry's side it is all treachery and scheming. Richard is to be waylaid, to be murdered, and so on. Lord Worcester writes that he "knows of a gentleman who will take that matter in hand." He is to be seized "when he goes into the field either to course the hares or to see his horses" (i.e., to take exercise). The Emperor, on the other hand, had grown so careless in the observance of his treaty with England, that the Messins had plucked up courage formally to present Richard with the freedom of their city. And a "paper of intelligence" to the English Court describes him as "in his glory."
In 1516 "Blanche Rose" could remain quiet no[Pg 76] longer. He must see Francis, and ask for military employment. So on the 22d February, without telling any one a word, we find him mounting horse, taking with him only his cook and a page, and trotting off to Paris, covering a hundred miles in twenty-four hours. But there was no employment for him yet. He returned on the 3rd of April. On Christmas Eve he repeats his ride, again secretly, accompanied by the Duke of Guelders, who had come to Metz in disguise. He returned, as he had come, in strict privacy, on the 17th February. After his return Claude Baudoche found that he could no longer spare "Paisse Temps," and politely turned out his guest. But he placed another house at his disposal, which may still be seen, at the crossing of the Rue de l'Esplanade and the Rue des Prisons Militaires (I give the French names, having forgotten the German). In the old chronicles the house, previously occupied by Jean or Jehan de Vy, is described as "après le grant maison de coste de St Esprit." Just opposite it is the Church of St Martin, a rather interesting building, exhibiting a curious medley of architectural styles. A rather remarkable feature in the church is a row of curious sculptures. "Blanche Rose's" house, dwindled terribly in size, and shorn of its ancient splendour, though still exhibiting some small remnants of former grandeur, such as zigzag mouldings and Gothic labels, directly faces this church on one side, and on the other side a public building, which is, if I recollect right, the military prison, and in front of which a Prussian sentry paces solemnly up and down.
At this house it was that Richard conceived the curious idea of treating his fellow-burgesses to what[Pg 77] must have infallibly endeared him to English neighbours—namely, the spectacle of a horse-race. Such a thing as that was, it appears, previously quite unknown in Metz. And accordingly it occasioned not a little stir. Richard and "aultres seigneurs," we read, were much given to exciting pastimes, including gambling and betting. And Richard, being the owner of a horse of which—like other owners of horses—he had an exceedingly high opinion, was rash enough one day to offer a bet against any one who might maintain that within ten "lues" round there was another horse running equally well. Nicolle Dex (whose name was pronounced Desh) readily took the bet, offering, to run his own horse against Richard's. All the particulars of the arrangements for the race are minutely recorded by Vigneulles. The two men were to ride their own horses. The course was to be from the Orme at Aubigny (a village five miles from Metz) to the gate of the Abbey of St. Clement (which abbey was destroyed in 1552, when the Duc de Guise held Metz against Charles V.). The bet was for eighty "escus d'or au solleil," which was to be paid beforehand to a stakeholder. The race came off on the appointed day, Saturday the 2nd of May—the day on which "l'awaine et le bacon" were, by regulation of the authorities, first sold. That would enable the competitors to get easily out of the gate of St. Thibault—which was conveniently near Richard's house, but which had to be opened on purpose. The Chevalier Dex, with an amount of cunning of which Vigneulles does not altogether approve, had for some days before subjected both himself and his horse to preparatory treatment—"dieu scet comment."[Pg 78] "Comme il me fut dit et certifié," that treatment consisted in his drinking nothing but white wine—which is the more sour of the two, and therefore is supposed rather strongly to contract the human frame—and giving his horse no hay whatever. Moreover, he had his horse shod with very light steel shoes. And himself he made as light as possible, riding "tout en pourpoint, avec un petit bonnet en sa teste," without shoes and without a saddle, having merely a light saddle-cloth laid over the horse's back. "Blanche Rose," however, rode in a saddle, and booted and spurred as for ordinary exercise. When the signal was given, Vigneulles says, the horsemen started with such terrible impetuosity that the bystanders thought the earth was going to open under them. "Blanche Rose" kept the lead most part of the way. But when the two reached St. Laidre—a léproserie near Montigny (the name of which still survives in a hamlet situated between Montigny and Aubigny) famed for its asparagus and fruit—Dex's artifices began to tell. Richard's horse was found to puff and to pant, and could not keep pace with its rival. Nicolle outstripped him. And though Richard spurred his horse till "le cler sanc en sailloit de tout cousté," it availed him nothing. Nicolle, having husbanded his horse's powers, came in first at the post. Richard was terribly annoyed, but he "ne dédaignait de risquer un peu de honte contre beaucoup de plaisir," like a good many other people. Very naturally, however, he would have his revenge. So the next St. Clement's Day saw the two horses running against one another once more; but it seems that their masters did not this time act as their own jockeys. Ill luck[Pg 79] would have it that "Blanche Rose's" jockey, one of his pages, was thrown whilst riding, by which mishap his master lost his bet a second time. After that he did not tempt fortune again on the turf.
A month after the first race, Richard made a second attempt to obtain a command under Francis. Accompanied by several "de nos jonnes seigneurs," he proceeded to Milan and other places in Italy. "Dieu les conduie," piously ejaculates Vigneulles. They arrived, as it turned out, a day after the fair. Peace had been concluded, and the seigneurs returned to Metz without having had occasion to draw their swords.
In this year, Henry, through one of his emissaries, tempted Richard with a proposal that he should endeavour to make his peace with the king, and write him a letter in that sense. The king, explained Alamire, the emissary in question, "had the character of being most clement." "So I have heard," replied Richard, scenting the mischief; "and how well I should stand with my present protector, the King of France, if King Henry were to show him my letter!"
In the following year Richard once more rode to Paris, seeking employment. This time he was rewarded with a secret mission, on which he was sent into Normandy. It was about this time that Giustiniani learnt from the legate, Campeggio, that Francis favoured "Blanche Rose" more than ever, and Henry and his ministers again began to feel acutely uncomfortable. They had heard, so the State Papers show, that Francis and Richard were plotting mischief: Francis was favouring the Duke of Albany and trying to stir up disturbances in Scotland. There was a scheme on foot,[Pg 80] Sir Richard Jernegan reports, according to which the Duke of Albany was to sail from Brittany to Scotland, "there to make business against the king," while "Blanche Rose" was to invade England from Denmark, abetted by the king of that country, and accompanied by that king's uncle, the Duke of Ulske; and Monsieur de Bourbon and the Duke of Vendôme were at the same time to besiege Tournay, which, in the peace of 1514, England had managed to retain. We cannot be altogether surprised, knowing in what systematic manner the Henrys persecuted the De la Poles, to learn that a man was said to have been taken in Champagne, paid by Henry to kill Richard. Indeed the thought of getting rid of Richard by assassination appears to have been habitually uppermost in Henry's mind.
However, the threatened invasion did not take place yet. Francis had other work to turn his thoughts to. On the 12th of January, 1519, Emperor Maximilian of Germany died, and the question arose, who was to be the next Emperor. Charles, the youthful King of Spain, was a candidate, and Francis of France resolved to enter the lists against him. He considered himself to have a fair chance. He seems to have counted even on Henry's support; but Henry, it turned out, cherished ill-founded hopes of being himself elected, and fought in a half-hearted way for his own hand. Francis, however, spared no pains in his canvass. He bribed and coaxed and promised all round, and indeed only very narrowly missed the election. At the last moment the Elector of Saxony left him in the lurch, just as, nearly three centuries after, that Elector's successor failed Napoleon at Leipzig, going over[Pg 81] to the other side. But for that defection Francis would of a surety have been elected Emperor. One of the promises which Francis had rashly made, was this: "Si je suis élu, trois ans après l'élection, je jure que je serai à Constantinople ou je serai mort." At the very last stage of the proceedings he despatched Richard de la Pole as a confidential envoy to Prague, where the Electoral College was sitting, to further his candidature. In the National Library at Paris a manuscript letter is still preserved containing the king's instructions. However, Richard arrived too late.
In the same year—1519—"Blanche Rose" found himself compelled to change his quarters a second time. Claude Baudoche "vouloit r'avoir ses maisons." The dean and chapter of Metz signalised their goodwill towards the guest of their city by making over to him for life, at a nominal rent of 10 sols messins per annum, their old mansion, called "la Haulte Pierre," occupying the commanding site on which now stands the Palais de Justice. In all probability, the handsome esplanade now leading up to that building did not at that time exist, nor yet perhaps the splendid terrace facing the Moselle and St. Quentin. But at all times the situation must have been unique. The reason why the house was let so cheap was, that it was then in an utterly dilapidated condition, and the tenant undertook thoroughly to repair it. He did better, as the chapter remembered to his credit after his death. At a heavy cost—he spent 2000 gold florins upon it in one year—he rebuilt it from top to bottom in magnificent style. That mansion does not now survive. It was pulled down in 1776 to make room[Pg 82] for the present structure, more useful though less showy, in which are housed the provincial law-courts.
While still in "la Rue de la Grande Maison"—the Rue de l'Esplanade—Richard de la Pole got entangled in a little love intrigue, which caused a tremendous commotion in the town, and led him into serious trouble. Metz was rather famed in those days for its goldsmiths. The Rue Fournirue—still interesting—was full of them. One of these artisans, named Nicolas Sébille, had a young wife, whom Vigneulles describes as "une des belles jonnes femmes, qui fut point en la cité de Metz, haulte, droite et élancée et blanche comme la neige." To this beautiful young woman's heart Richard successfully laid siege. She came to see him at his house, which was conveniently near. The conquest does not appear to have cost him much persuasion. Evidently Madame Sébille was as hotly smitten with him as he was with her. To be able to carry on his little amour with the greater freedom, he gave the unsuspecting husband an order for some very costly and elaborate goldsmith's work, necessitating one or two journeys to Paris, the expense of which Richard was quite content to pay. While the husband was away "celle belle Sébille" went "aulcunes fois bancqueter et faire la bonne chière en l'ostel du dit duc," so much so that the city began to talk. The duke, for the safety of his lady-love, employed a certain hosier named Mangenat to escort her and watch the streets. Mangenat was in one sense admirably fitted for this office—for he was a stalwart bully, who soon became the terror of all the neighbourhood. Like the German and French police in these days, he suspected a spy or an enemy in every person[Pg 83] he met, and struck and mauled a good many harmless creatures. That caused additional scandal; and as there was no police to maintain peace and order, the neighbours, after complaining a good deal, took the law into their own hand, and one fine night, early in September, turned out in force to lynch Mangenat. Richard had by that time removed to "Haulte Pierre," and there was therefore a considerable distance to cover between his house and the Rue Fournirue. The neighbours were firmly resolved to turn Mangenat into a "corps sans âme." Mangenat, however, managed to elude them. The neighbours then laid their plaint before the Thirteen. Madame Sébille, fearing her husband's wrath, resolutely packed up her clothes and jewels and other belongings, and with them also her husband's money, and transferred herself with these possessions to the "Haulte Pierre." This made matters still worse, especially when Nicolas returned home and set a-clamouring for his money and his wife. Watching for "Blanche Rose," he caught him one day in the Rue Fournirue, and very nearly did for him. On Sunday, the 16th of September, he demonstratively took up his position, fully armed with sword and hallebarde, at the cathedral door, intending to knock Richard's life out of him in the sacred place. Richard was warned, and wisely kept out of the way. However, as Nicolas tried to raise a popular tumult, on the ground that an outraged plebeian could obtain no legal redress from the patrician court—"l'aristocratie," says M. des Robert, "fut tout puissante"—the Thirteen could ignore the case no longer. With some difficulty they persuaded "the duke" to let Madame Sébille go. He agreed to this only on the distinct [Pg 84]understanding that Nicolas "ne lui [that is, his wife] ne reprochait en rien sa conduite, ni ne la baittroit, ni ne lui diroit parole qui l'en puist desplaire, si non que leur débast ou huttin vint pour aultre chose." This undertaking having been given—by the Thirteen—Madame Sébille was brought before the court under protection of a strong armed escort, consisting of notable chevaliers. Of course Nicolas would in no wise agree to the terms proposed. And so the Thirteen—it is interesting to learn how these cases were dealt with in those early days—kept his wife in their own charge, lodging her very fitly in the council-room of the "Seven of War," and supplying her with good food and drink at the expense of the town. Thereupon Nicolas, as he could not obtain redress as a citizen of Metz, migrated to Thionville, became a burgess of that town and then—as he was entitled to do in those days—levied war in person on the man who had wronged him. He bribed "Des Allemans" to waylay and kidnap or kill Richard, just as the two English Henrys had done. Richard, being a little bit frightened, sought refuge in the chateau of Ennery, belonging to Signor Nicolle de Heu. (This fact was promptly reported to Henry.) Here, Vigneulles says, Richard meant to "passer mélancolie et passer son dueil." However, Sébille's "Allemans" found him out, and one day very nearly captured him. So "Blanche Rose" thought it prudent to seek safer quarters. He found them at Toul. Nicolas does not appear to have followed him so far, nor to have troubled himself much further about his faithless wife. This put the Thirteen in a fix. They had the lady on their hands, and were sorely puzzled what to do with her. Nicolas would not[Pg 85] have her on any account, and could not at Thionville be made to take her; and restore her to Richard they in propriety could not. After much deliberation, having detained her a full fortnight at public expense, they cut the knot to their own satisfaction by handing Madame Sébille over to her brother, one Gaudin, a butcher, who was to take care of her. Gaudin gave her in charge to an old woman selling wax candles. Madame Sébille was under strict injunction not to leave the city. But who could expect her to observe that command? Anyhow, one fire morning, pretending that she had a pilgrimage to perform to "St. Trottin," she made her way outside the city gates disguised as a vendangeresse, with a basket by her side and a sickle in her hand. Outside the walls she was met by friends who at once put her into a page's clothes, in which, of course, she marched as straight as she could to Toul, and joined "Blanche Rose," to her swain's delight as well as her own. Richard had once more "ne dédaigné de risquer un peu de honte contre beaucoup de plaisir." He and his lady-love were now outside the jurisdiction of the Thirteen, and might therefore consider themselves safe. But upon the abettors of the lady's flight the magistrates visited their share in the offence with all the greater rigour. Notwithstanding Richard's earnest interposition, they heavily fined and banished them. Thus ends the story of Richard's amour; for what became of Madame Sébille afterwards, neither history nor tradition records. She was not allowed to enjoy the company of her knight long; for stirring events were in train, which required his presence elsewhere.
In 1521 a powerful alliance of European States was formed against Francis I., designed to humble the [Pg 86]victor of Marignano. It comprised the Emperor, the Pope, the King of England, Florence, Venice, and Genoa. In 1522 England invaded Picardy and Flanders. That put an end to the treaty engagements of 1514, and made Richard's services allowable as well as needful to the French king. Indeed "Blanche Rose" did not wait to be summoned. The State papers and other official publications of that period relate how busy he was plotting against England and Scotland. King Francis took a delight in parading his partiality for the Duke of Albany and the "Duke of Suffolk." He rode in public with one of them on one side and one on the other. He slapped Richard on the back and said in the hearing of the Court: "My Lord of Suffolk, I will set you in England with 40,000 men within few days." He proposed a marriage for Richard with the daughter of the Duke of Holstein, and planned sundry invasions of England which, happily, did not come off. But Richard joined the French army under Guise and Vendôme, and fought against his countrymen in Picardy. There he raised a corps of 2,000 men on his own authority, and led this welcome reinforcement to Francis at St. Jean de Moustiers. In 1524 he accompanied Albany into Scotland, without, however, doing much hurt. But he greatly frightened Henry's officers. We find Fitzwilliam writing to Wolsey, urging him, in face of "his wretched traitor" being in the field, to "hasten over some men to give courage to the Flemings."
Then came the campaign which led to the catastrophe of Pavia. Richard joined the French army at Marseilles, and was, in company with Francis of Lorraine, placed at the head of his old corps the German lansquenets,[Pg 87] who were delighted to fight under so practised and trusted a leader. They were 6,000 at the beginning of the campaign, pitted against a larger number of their own brethren under Frundsberg, in the Emperor's service. On St. Matthias Day, in 1525, the battle of Pavia was fought, which lost Francis his liberty. Francis, as usual, showed no want of dash, but a lamentable lack of prudence. Mistaking the enemy's retreat, under the fire of his guns, for a settled defeat, he sent his infantry after them, placing the bulk of his army between the foe and his own artillery. The allies were not slow to turn this false move to account. Charging back upon their foes, they overwhelmed them with superior numbers. That lost the French the day. Richard's lansquenets did their best to retrieve the error. Having knelt down, as their manner was, and thrown dust behind them, they rushed, singing their familiar war-songs, into the fray with an impetus which promised to break the hostile ranks. "Had but the Switzers fought like the lansquenets," Francis said after the battle, "the day would have been ours." But the odds were too many against them. They were met by their own fellow-lansquenets—each side being furious with the other. The German men were wroth at seeing their comrades on the other side, fighting against their own country—the French at seeing their brother-soldiers desert so faithful an employer as Francis. So no quarter was given on either side. And the French lansquenets—they had lost one-fourth of their number before the charge began—being wedged in between a superior force of Germans closing in on either side, were simply crushed as between two millstones. The list of killed was long—and brilliant.[Pg 88] Among the slain were the two captains of the lansquenets, Francis of Lorraine and Richard de la Pole. The latter had—as a painting preserved in the Ashmolean Museum indicates—died protecting Francis with his sword. He was found buried under "un monceau" of dead enemies against whom he had fought. There was loud rejoicing in the camp of the allies. It was given out that "three kings" had been taken or killed—Francis, the unfortunate King of Navarre, and, "to make up the trinity of kings," says a despatch addressed to Wolsey, "La Rose Blanche, whom they call the King of Scots." Appended to the curious despatch which Frundsberg forwarded to the Emperor, giving a report of the battle—the oldest record extant—is a drawing, showing three crowned knights, fancy portraits of the "kings."
One is prepared to find Henry VIII. ordering a triumph, and congratulating himself upon his happy riddance from a rival who had been more of a thorn in his side than the present generation is probably aware. But it does seem small to read, in the State Papers, of one of Henry's tools begging from Wolsey the king's authority for seizing "some goods of no great amount" that Richard had left at Metz.
The French were far more chivalrous in their treatment of the dead warrior. We read in Camden that "for his singular valour" his very enemy, the Duke of Bourbon, "honoured his remains with splendid obsequies, and attended in person as one of the chief mourners." Francis expressed his attachment to the fallen, and his indebtedness to him for brilliant services. "La France," says Gaillard, "perdit en lui un allié utile, qui la servit efficacement et sans rien exiger d'elle." Considering that[Pg 89] he was an English subject, that may sound questionable praise. But though he may have shown too great willingness to avail himself of the excuse, it should be borne in mind that it was England's kings who first drove him into treason.
The chapter of Metz, grateful for Richard's liberality, passed the following "resolution"—as we should say—founding a mass for the repose of their benefactor's soul: "Aprilis anno Domini 1525 in conflictu apud Paviensem civitatem quo tunc Franciscus Gallorum rex per exercitum Romanorum imperatoris captus et Hispaniam captivus ductus extituit, habito, obiit quondam illuster Richardus dux de Suffolk qui domum nostram dictam à la Haute Pierre sibi ante per nos ad vitam locatam obtinens valde somptuose restauravit, unde statuimus nunc anniversarium quotannum Ecclesiâ nostrâ pro salute animæ suæ perpetuo celebrari."
That mass ought, of course, to be read still. However, deans and chapters have as little respect for "pious founders"—though these be their own predecessors—as British Parliaments in democratic days. Consequently, the ecclesiastical function has long since been discontinued.
Apart from Richard's death, Henry did not find himself much of a gainer by the victory of Pavia. He had contributed nothing directly to the battle, and Charles V. accordingly would concede him none of the spoils. On the contrary, grasping monarch that he was, under cover of a marriage-portion to be given to Henry's daughter, he asked for a subsidy of 600,000 ducats. We need not be surprised to find Henry shortly after concluding a treaty with France, which secured him two millions of crowns.
[Pg 90]One more notice we have of Richard de la Pole, the last of his race. Describing Pavia, as he found it in 1594, Fynes Moryson says: "Neere that (the castle) is the Church of St. Austine; there I did reade this inscription, written in Latin upon another sepulchre:—The French King Francis I. being taken by Cæsar's army neere Pavia, the 24th of February, in the yeere 1525, among other lords, these were slaine: Francis Duke of Lorayne, Richard de la Pole, Englishman and Duke of Suffolk, banished by his tyrant King Henry VIII. At last Charles Parker of Morley, kinseman of the said Richard, banished out of England for the Catholike faith by Queene Elizabeth, and made Bishop here by the bounty of Philip, King of Spain, did out of his small means erect this monument to him."
This is the last memorial of a life which created not a little stir in its day, and might under more favourable circumstances have been made signally serviceable to Richard's own country. Even that last memorial has probably now disappeared. But still "White Rose" may fairly claim a place at any rate in the lighter records of English history.
Thanks to Cook, thanks to our all-reporting newspaper-press, and thanks, not least, to our truly Athenian craving continually for "some new thing," Ammergau has become almost a household word among us. Everybody has heard of its "Passion Play." Every tenth year sees Britons rushing in shoals to the picturesque banks of the Ammer, to witness there, while it may be witnessed, the last surviving specimen of that popular religious drama which in bygone times helped the Church so materially, and over so wide an area, to impress her truths upon men's minds. But I question, if among all those thousands of sight-seeing Britons, who gather as interested spectators, there are many who realize in what very close relation that same little valley stands to the early fortunes of the ancient House whose Head now occupies our Throne. How many, indeed, among[Pg 92] us can be said to know very much at all about that family? And yet the history of that race ought to be of some interest to us. In these latter days it has become intertwined with the history of our own nation. It is marked by striking contrasts of ups and downs, at one time leading the Guelphs on a rapid triumphal progress up to the very steps of the Imperial Throne, then again dropping them down to the obscure level of paltry insignificance. It tells of a race endowed with a strong individuality—manly, chivalrous, generous; but generally also headstrong and reckless. It is interwoven with pathetic legend. Its early beginnings are lost in the dim haze of a prehistoric age. Its latter end has not yet come. There is no dynasty now surviving equally ancient—there is but one which can join in the boast which up to a few decades ago the Guelphs could make:—that on the throne on which it was planted centuries ago it has retained its hold to the present generation. That other dynasty is the family, Slav by descent, of the Obotrite Grand Dukes of Mecklenburg—the same race whom our Alfred the Great speaks of as "Apdrede." The present grand dukes are the direct descendants of that terrible Prince Niklot, of the twelfth century, whom among German princes only the Guelph, Henry the Lion, was found strong enough to subdue. But before Bodrician Niklot had mounted his barbarian throne, Henry the Generous had already been installed as chief over Lüneburg—the principality over which his family continued to rule down to 1866, when the cruel Fortune of War decided against its last Guelph chief. In the adjoining Duchy of Brunswick, over which, as forming part of ancient Saxony, the Guelphs were set as heads[Pg 93] in 1127, the family continued to hold sway till 1884, when Death removed the last scion of their older line, in the person of the late Duke of Brunswick. The Guelph pedigree, however, goes very much farther back than the time of Henry. Long even before Guelph Odoacer, at the head of his Teuton hordes, dethroned that caricature of an Emperor, Romulus Augustulus, there were Guelph "Agilolfings" leading to battle, as trusted chiefs, their own Scyrian tribes. What the later history of the family might have been, if to its constitutional valour and generosity had been joined the less showy, but far more useful, qualities of prudence and judgment, we may now, by the light of past events, readily conjecture. The Guelphs were in Henry's day by far the strongest dynasty in Germany—at a period when for the Imperial throne above all things a strong dynasty was needed. Had Germany elected Henry the Generous as Emperor, as everybody expected that she would, the Guelphs might still be wearing the crown of Charlemagne, and Germany might have a different tale to tell, both of her past experiences and of her present position. For it deserves to be noticed that all the troubles which came upon the Empire, by minute subdivision of its territory, and by the setting up of "opposition emperors," sprang directly and demonstrably from contests provoked with the Guelphs. It was Henry IV.'s resistance to Welf IV. that led to the multiplication of vassal crowns, which subsequently became a curse to Germany. It was the Powers pledged to the support of the Guelphs—most notably the Popes and our Cœur-de-Lion—who put forward those troublesome "opposition emperors," the forerunners and [Pg 94]direct cause of the ruinous Interregnum—"die kaiserlose, die schreckliche Zeit"—and by such means of the political prostration of the country enduring through centuries.
But our interest, in England, lies more with the Guelphs than with Germany. One cannot help sympathizing with a race which, being evidently designed for greatness, advanced towards it with giant strides, only to find the prize at which it ambitiously grasped snatched from its hand in the very moment of seeming attainment.
Of the very early history of the Guelphs we have fairly definite, but only very fragmentary, information. They were leaders of the Scyri, we learn—a Teuton race of the Semnone family, mentioned by Pliny, by Zosimus, and by Jornandes—who poured over Germany, in the days of Valentinian, along with hosts of other German tribes, and who, having been all but exterminated by the Goths, united with some other septs of the same family, the Rugii, the Heruli, the Turcilingi, to form a composite nation which, for convenience, adopted the common name of Bajuvarii. Bavarians accordingly the Guelphs originally were, as the historian Theganus is careful to point out—not Swabians, as German historians have often named them; Bavarians, as seems to be evidenced, among other things, by the dark features and black hair which for a long time distinguished them—more especially from their opponents of a full century, the fair-haired and light-complexioned Hohenstaufens. Of the confederate Bajuvarii, the Agilolfings or Guelphs still continued chiefs. Under a Guelph, Eticho—whom Priscus Rhetor praises as a man of exceptional capacity and high character—we find the[Pg 95] nation attaching themselves as auxiliaries to the host of Attila, and rendering the Hunnish king signal service. Eticho was by no means a mere rough warrior. He fully appreciated Roman culture and civilization—which led the eunuch, Chrysaphas, to propose to him the murder of his chief. The honest Guelph rejected such suggestion with scorn. From the midst of the Bajuvarii went forth the Guelph Odoacer on his march to Rome. The Bajuvarii were then settled on the banks of the Danube—roughly speaking in what is now Austria, plus Bavaria and the Tyrol. Hence we find the earliest known seats of the Guelphs in the Bavarian Highlands. Ammergau was theirs, and Hohenschwangau was one of their earliest castles, founded, indeed, by a Guelph. When, after a revolt of the Rugii—which was successfully suppressed by Odoacer—some of the allied tribes dispersed, to seek new homes in the tempting districts on the banks of the Ens and around the lake of Constance—both at the time sorely devastated and depopulated by the Goths—the Guelphs, without giving up their old seats, accompanied their men. And thus it came about that the earliest castle which we hear of as having been built by the Guelphs is supposed to have stood in Thurgau, of which country the Guelphs subsequently became Counts. This is all mere inference; but as such it seems legitimate. For the monastery of Rheinau is known to have been founded by a Guelph. And such monasteries were never built far away from the founder's stronghold. Hence the Guelphs' connection with the Black Forest, of which the Guelph St. Conrad is the venerated patron saint; and hence their connection with Alsace, of which they were long Counts—such powerful[Pg 96] Counts that Pepin the Short judged it advisable to reduce them to the position of removable governors—missi cameræ. [S. Odilia, the patron saint of Alsace, whose name is a household word among her own countrymen, and about whom Goethe grew enthusiastic, was an undoubted Guelph.] Hence, also, their connection with the whilom country of the Burgundians, among the nobles of which land we find a Guelph chief, in 605, standing up manfully against the aggressive usurpations of Protadius, a Frankish major-domo, and acting as spokesman.
As missi cameræ the Guelphs had a serious brush with the Church—the only tiff, practically speaking, which ever occurred between them and Rome. Of this quarrel, in which the Guelphs were probably in the right, we find a tradition kept up for some centuries. The Abbot of St. Gall figured in those days in Germany as the exact counterpart to the rich and grasping "Abbot of Canterbury" of our ballad. For some pilfering of crown lands the Guelph Warin, as a conscientious missus cameræ, had Abbot Othmar imprisoned, which brought about the Abbot's death. Rome at once canonized her "martyr," and exacted heavy retribution from his "persecutors," not merely in the shape of severe penances and the foundation of masses, but by the more substantial satisfaction of large transfers of landed estates to the injured abbey—Affeltangen and Wiesendangen, and I know not how many properties more, till even to the pious Guelphs the demands appeared to grow beyond all measure of reason. It is true, they recouped themselves elsewhere—quod si cui minus credibile videatur, say the monkish chroniclers—"which, if to any it appear a little incredible, let him read the ancient histories,[Pg 97] and he will find nearly all their territories to have been violently taken and held by them of others."
It is with Warin's son Isembart, living in the time of Charlemagne, that the better known history of the Guelphs begins. He was the hero of that ridiculous fable about the "pups," which has been invented to explain their adoption of their peculiar name. Isembart's wife Irmentrude, it is said, having uncharitably reproached a poor beggarwoman for having borne triplets—which she held to be a proof of unfaithful conduct towards her husband—was punished for her gratuitous accusation by being herself made to bear at one birth, not three sons, but twelve. To screen herself from the same reproach which she had unkindly fastened upon the beggar, she hit upon the rather inept device of having eleven of those newly-born sons drowned as supposed "whelps." The twelfth she kept—and he is said to have become "Welf," the founder of the race. The other eleven were happily rescued by their father, who came up just in time to save them. Ten of them lived to become founders of princely houses. The eleventh became a bishop. One of them is said to have been Thassilo, the reputed ancestor of the Hohenzollerns. The real meaning of all this legend obviously is that, by survival and intermarriage with other illustrious families of Europe, the Guelphs have in course of time become, in a sense, the parent of most reigning lines—Zähringens, Hapsburgs, Hohenzollerns, Capets, Bourbons, and the rest of them.
The fable of children being sent to be drowned as "whelps"—and in every instance happily rescued—is, as it happens, by no means peculiar to the Guelphs. It occurs in the Black Forest, in connection with a family bearing[Pg 98] the name of "Hund." It occurs in Lower Lorraine in that pretty trouvère legend recording the doings of "Helias," the "Chevalier au Cygne," whom we moderns know as "Lohengrin." It is interesting to note that, along with that fable, Guelph tradition in Bavaria shares with the tradition of Lorraine the far more attractive and poetical myth of an enchanted swan—the swan, in fact, of "Lohengrin"—a bird specifically emblematizing purity—whence the extinct "Order of the Swan" of the Margraves of Brandenburg. That order was an aristocratic "Social Purity League," which Frederick William IV. would gladly have revived, could he but have found sufficient candidates for it among his nobility. But his proposal met with very scanty support. Hence, also, the equally ancient "Order of the Swan" of Cleves, having a like object.
As regards the "whelps" of the Guelphs, the existence of very different and contradictory versions helps to show what a made-up story the whole legend is. The only authority for it is the monk Bucelinus, who himself quotes no more ancient source. And he is said to have invented it for the mere purpose of showing off his monkish Latin, in order to deduce from the Latin word for "whelp"—catulus—an imaginary descent, supposed to be complimentary, from a fabulous Roman senator "Catilina," and through him from the ancient Trojan kings. In opposition to this, it is a fact that there were "Welfs" long before Isembart. The name Guelph, therefore, could not have been first suggested by Irmentrude's unsuccessful stratagem. Isembart lived in the ninth century. But, as early as the fifth, Odoacer had a brother named "Welf." "Welf" and "Eticho" were,[Pg 99] in fact, the two traditional names of the family, from prehistoric days downward. Sir Andrew Halliday's suggestion, that the name may have been first taken from an ensign which the Guelphs are supposed to have borne in battle, is equally wide of the mark. For that ensign, we know, from the Agilolfings down to the Hanovers, never was a "whelp" at all, but a "lion." In truth the name "Welf" has nothing whatever to do with "whelp," but is derived from "hwelpe," "huelfe"—help. As Eticho means "hero," so Welf means "helper"—auxiliator. The popular Latin rendering for it in olden days was "Bonifacius." "Salvator" would be a more exact rendering, but would obviously be liable to misinterpretation. In confirmation of this theory, we find that, migrating into Italy about Charlemagne's time, a Guelph, on becoming Count of Lucca, as a matter of course assumes the name of "Bonifacius." And in his line, for further confirmation, we observe the same peculiarity which marks the Guelphs, that is, the naming of all sons of the family, without distinction, by the style of "Count"—a practice altogether unknown in those days among other families.
So much for the name and origin of the Guelphs. Now I must ask the reader to return with me to Ammergau, which is peculiarly sacred to the memory of Eticho, styled the Second, who was probably the son of Isembart. Eticho lived in the days of Emperor Lewis the Pious, who in second nuptials married the Guelph's sister Judith. The birth, by Judith, of little Charles—who became "Charles the Bald"—gave rise to that unnatural war between Lewis and his three elder sons, in the course of which alike Judith and two of her brothers were imprisoned[Pg 100] in Tortona, from which place of confinement Bonifacius II. of Lucca, marching to their relief, avowedly as a kinsman, loyally rescued them. Eticho's daughter, Lucardis, again married an emperor, Arnulf of Carinthia—of whom Carlyle need not have spoken quite so unkindly, as of a "Carolingian Bastard," seeing that he made a far better ruler than any of his legitimate kinsmen of his own time. Thanks to Lucardis it was that Eticho was driven to seek a refuge, as a hermit, in the wild seclusion of Ammergau. He went there to mourn, with twelve chosen companions, the loss of Guelph independence, which his son Henry, so he thought, had at the instigation of his sister ingloriously bartered away for a "mess of pottage"—a pretty substantial one, it must be owned. In truth, Henry did exceedingly well for his house. This is how the Saxon Annalist relates the story:—Henry, ambitious for wealth and power, agreed to swear fealty to the Emperor, if in return, in addition to his own lands, he were given in fee as much territory as he could drive around with a car, or else with a plough—on that point the versions differ—in the time between sunrise and the conclusion of the Emperor's afternoon nap. Arnulf thought the bargain a cheap one for himself. However, Henry had stationed relays of the swiftest horses that he could procure at various points, and with their help he raced round the coveted territory with such marvellous speed that—having started from the Lech—by the time when the Emperor awoke he had actually reached the Isar. The Emperor was just beginning to move restlessly in his chair and to show signs of returning consciousness, when Henry arrived at the foot of a mountain which he had designed as the extreme limit of his new possessions. If his mare[Pg 101] would but last out the journey, one brisk gallop would carry him to the appointed goal. Unfortunately, the mare refused—in consequence of which, for many centuries the Guelphs would not mount a mare. The hill which Henry thus narrowly failed to obtain still goes by the name of Mährenberg, the "Mare's mountain." Arnulf considered that he had been "done." But, having pledged his word, he held himself bound. Eticho, grieved, mourned out his life in his hermit's cell in Ammergau. Henry—who was after his adventure named Heinricus cum aureo curru—does not appear to have made any particular effort to propitiate his father. But when the old man was dead, he carried his remains with great pomp and show to the monastery of Altomünster, very near his own new seat of Altorf, where he raised a gorgeous tomb to Eticho's memory, at which Guelph chiefs made it a practice to kneel for generations after, thus evidencing their respect for an ancestor who came to be looked upon as specifically the champion of independence. The homage paid became a cult; and in Ammergau shortly after rose up, where Eticho's cell had stood, a wooden memorial church, to be replaced, in 1350, by a much larger monastery, built at the expense of Emperor Lewis the Bavarian, a descendant of Eticho. The monastery is still known as "Ettal"—that is, "Eticho's Thal," "Etichonis vallis."
Altomünster, I may mention in passing, was the "Minster" supposed to have been founded by S. Alto, a Scottish saint, the companion and disciple of S. Boniface, who managed, like Moses, to make a hard rock give forth a spring of rushing water by striking it with his staff. The spring still flows; and, as it was[Pg 102] specially blessed by S. Boniface, its water is no doubt entitled to the peculiar veneration in which it is held to the present day.
From their new seat at Altorf, up to the death of Welf III., the Guelphs continued to take their name. They were specifically "the Guelphs of Altorf." While there, they managed to better their fortune not a little. It was a rough neighbourhood then, with nothing but forest all round, forest spreading out for miles, stocked with wolves, and bears, and all manner of game. To the present day some thirteen thousand acres remain under timber. There are plenty of dales, and caves, and peaks, and the like, in the district, which have given rise to an innumerable host of legends. One of Henry's sons was that excellent Bishop Conrad, who became the family saint par excellence, and who first inaugurated the traditional friendship with Rome. Welf II., feeling his power growing, ventured to break a lance with the Emperor, in support of his friend Ernest of Swabia, whose Burgundian possessions—very large ones—the Emperor had wrongfully seized. It did no good to Ernest. But it taught the Emperor that the Guelphs had become a power to be reckoned with—a power with whom it was advisable to stand well. And accordingly we find the next Emperor, Henry III., with a view to propitiating the succeeding Guelph, Welf III., preferring him to the dukedom of Carinthia, which was a very important office in those days—Carinthia being a frontier march, and embracing Verona and part of Venetia. So great was the importance attached to this position that for seven years Henry had, for want of a sufficiently strong candidate, advisedly kept it open.[Pg 103] Welf took the Duchy—and then pursued his own course, defying the Emperor at Roncaglia, and refusing to render him service—which was politic and, according to the notions of his day, not dishonest.
Welf III. was the last Guelph of the male line. After him we find the Guelphs of the female branch succeeding to the family honours—the "Guelphs of Ravensburg," as they were fond of styling themselves. These are the Guelphs from whom our Queen is descended. To what extent the family had added to their estate while settled at Altorf came to be seen when, in 1055, Welf III. died. The possessions which he left embraced a good bit of Alemannia, the greater half of Bavaria (which then included the present Austria), the larger part of the Tyrol, and a tidy slice of Northern Italy. It is no wonder that "Mother Church," always alive to temporal opportunities, cast her eyes a little longingly on so fair an estate, and, in default of a male heir, demanded it for herself. But there was a Guelph beforehand with her—Welf IV., the son of Chuniza, the sister of Welf III., by her marriage with Azzo (a direct descendant of the Guelph Bonifacius). Welf IV. proved himself a particularly strong and able ruler—vir armis strenuus, concilio providus, sapientia tam forensi quam civili præditus, the monkish chroniclers style him. Hence his surname, which he well deserved—"the Strong." By his accession he added to the family territories those valuable estates in Italy which for a long period made his family one of the most wealthy in Europe. For Azzo was reputed the richest and one of the most powerful marchiones of Italy. Welf's younger brother was Hugo, the first of the family to take the name of Este,[Pg 104] who became the founder of a race which has been held particularly noble. Welf IV. secured his family other gains. Man of war that he was, the Emperor Henry IV. was thankful to have him for a supporter in his struggles with the rebellious Saxons, before whom the Swabian companies had recoiled. At the battle of the Unstrut Welf completely shattered their power, and thereby secured to Henry for a time the peaceful possession of his purple—and for himself, as a reward, the Dukedom of Bavaria. That office was worth even more than the Dukedom of Carinthia. For at that time Germany owned but four regular dukes, representing severally the four principal tribes which made up the nation. And with those four dukes, under the Emperor, rested, in the main, the power in the Empire.
Following in the footsteps of his uncle, we find Welf IV. drawing closer the links which connected him with Swabia, while correspondingly loosening his proprietary relations with Bavaria, and in token of such policy fixing his residence in pretty Ravensburg. The reason evidently was, that the laws of Swabia conceded to vassal lords more extensive rights than did the laws of Bavaria. Accordingly, we find Henry the Generous, when dispossessed of his duchy by Conrad III., appealing specifically to the laws of Swabia against the Emperor's monstrously unfair judgment. But, apart from that political reason, Ravensburg was also no doubt more attractive on the score of its pleasant situation and its delightful surroundings. You may identify both sites, when sailing down the lake of Constance, among that picturesquely outlined cluster of hills, on which your eye is sure to rest instinctively—the hills rising[Pg 105] on the northern bank, in the very face of the tall Alps of Appenzell, among which the lopsided Säntis is particularly conspicuous. From Ravensburg both the lake and the Alps are clearly visible, and, moreover, a charming landscape nearer than either, with that pretty Schussenthal right in front, and a multitude of rocky peaks dotted about the forest, alternating with shady dales, smiling fields, and lush meadows. Of the castle there is now but a crumbling weather-worn old gateway left. The town still exists, and flourishes after a fashion—consisting of a group of quaint, picturesque, out-of-date houses, looking for all the world like a piece of grey antiquity recalled to life. At Ravensburg used to be stored the Archives of the Guelph family. A valuable and interesting collection they must have been. What has become of them nobody knows. They may have been destroyed by fire. They may, with heaps of other precious material for history, have been carried to greedy Vienna, to be there preserved as so much lumber.
During Welf IV.'s reign happened that historic conflict between Church and State, Pope Hildebrand and Henry IV. of Germany, for his share in which Henry has been censured a good deal more than in justice he deserves. Really, in going to Canossa, the Emperor did—so far as his intention was concerned—a very prudent thing. The German princes had bluntly informed him that while he remained at feud with the Pope, he would look for their obedience in vain. With the Pope, accordingly, Henry strove to set himself right. Could he certainly foresee that, urged on by the malignant Countess Matilda, Gregory would take advantage of[Pg 106] his duress, while he was literally hemmed in between two outer walls of the castle, to force upon him so bitter a cup of humiliation? Matilda was a Guelph—destined to play a very important part in Guelph history. Welf IV. was her near kinsman, and had, moreover, become a zealous supporter of the Pope. Therefore we can scarcely wonder at finding him with Hildebrand and Matilda at Canossa, witnessing his chief's degradation. We can not wonder, either, at finding Welf, when Henry had once more fallen out with the Pope, commanding the rebel forces raised to support the "opposition Emperor," Rudolph of Swabia. And, being a Guelph, it is no wonder that he should have taken advantage of the opportunity of his victory, to extort from the Emperor terms materially benefiting his own house—namely, the recognition of his private property in Swabia as held directly from the Emperor, and—which was more important—the recognition of his Bavarian dukedom as hereditary in his family. How great was the power wielded at that period in Germany by this early Guelph prince, is evident from the fact that after his conclusion of a separate peace with the Emperor the opposition practically collapsed, and Hermann, the new "opposition emperor," found himself almost without support. Welf IV., I ought to mention, was the first Guelph to connect his family in a manner with our island. He married Judith, the daughter of Count Baldwin of Flanders, and the widow of Tostig, King of Northumberland, the son of Earl Godwine, of Kent, and brother of the unfortunate King Harold. Leaving Judith at home with the two sons whom she had borne him, Welf and Henry, Welf IV. started in[Pg 107] 1098, at an advanced age, on a crusade to the Holy Land, which he successfully accomplished. But on his return home he was struck down by a fatal illness, which overtook him in the island of Cyprus.
This brings us down to the time of a tragic little incident which has furnished the subject for the favourite family legend of the Guelphs. At the time of their father's death both Welf and Henry were mere boys, left in charge of a good monk, Kuno, a Benedictine of Weingarten. Considering how important a part Weingarten has played in Guelph history—that its monks have become the carefully minute but provokingly inaccurate chroniclers of the Guelph family—and that, thanks to the pious liberality of the late King of Hanover, in the Abbey church of Weingarten the gathered bones of most of the early Guelph lords have found an honoured resting-place, perhaps I ought to say just a word about that monastery. It was Welf the Third's foundation, set up at a short distance only from Ravensburg, on a site commanding a magnificent view of the country all around, and was intended to provide accommodation for those pious monks, originally of Altomünster, who had been twice, at very short intervals, burnt out of Altorf. It still stands; its three towers form a conspicuous landmark in the Schussengau; and to its shrine still are undertaken pilgrimages from a wide circuit—a survival that from a worship of olden days which was one of the great spectacles of the mediæval Church. Before setting out for the Holy Land, Welf IV. entrusted to the monks of Weingarten for safe keeping, a relic which was at the time held in far more than ordinary esteem. It[Pg 108] consisted of some drops of the Saviour's blood, believed to be thoroughly genuine, and preserved, enclosed in a costly vessel made of pure gold of Arabia and valued at three thousand florins. There was a history to those drops. Pious inquirers have ascertained that the name of the centurion who was present at the Saviour's crucifixion, as the Gospel relates, was Longinus, and that he was a native of Mantua. Seeing the precious drops trickling down, it is said, he caught them up in a vessel, and, becoming converted by what he witnessed, returned home to Mantua, still reverently carrying them with him. He was in due time baptized, and became a missionary and a martyr. For something like eight hundred years the Holy Blood remained buried in his garden at Mantua. Then it was discovered by accident, only to be once more concealed somewhere or other. But in 1049, when Pope Leo IX. happened to be at Mantua, once more it came to light, to be instantly claimed by the Pope on behalf of the Supreme See. The Mantuans objected; but in the end Leo obtained, at any rate, part of the precious treasure. Of his share he kept half. The other half he gave away to his friend the Emperor Henry III., who, on his death, bequeathed it to Baldwin of Flanders, from whom, in her turn, Judith got it—carrying it with her to Northumberland, and then on to Ravensburg, where she dutifully made it over to her husband. And when Welf started on his crusade, he, as observed, entrusted the relic to the monastery of Weingarten. The monks knew well how to turn so valuable a possession to account. The Good Friday ceremony of "Worshipping the Sacred Blood" became one of the most frequented, most [Pg 109]impressive, and most honoured ceremonies of the Church. As many as thirty thousand people have been known to flock to the place from all quarters, turning the hillside into a huge pilgrim's camp, and contributing not a little to the prosperity of the religious house. Under the circumstances, the monks decided to restrict the attendance at the procession—which was the main part of the ceremony—to horsemen only, whence the whole function came to be popularly named "Der Blutritt." As many as fifteen thousand horsemen are known to have joined in the monster cavalcade. At the head rode the Custos of the relic, a monk, holding up the Blood for adoration. He was followed by a horseman doing duty for Longinus, clad as a Roman warrior, bearing in his hand the supposed "sacred spear." After him marched a small squad of other horsemen, representing Roman legionaries. Next followed a goodly muster of Princes and Counts and Lords. And the rear was brought up by a long file of mounted soldiers, contributed by the surrounding dozen or so of petty principalities, all gay in their best uniforms, reflecting in the variety of their dress the unhappy division of the Empire, and joining lustily in the sacred song Salvator Mundi.
But we must now return to Ravensburg and young Welf. Not far off from Ravensburg still stands, conspicuous upon its lofty hill, the old castle of Waldburg, the cradle of the noble race of the Truchsesses of Waldburg, who were at times rather a rough set. There is a story of one particularly brusque Count who, having rallied the Abbot of Weingarten upon his sumptuous living and soft raiment, and having been told in reply that such things were far more creditable than riding about the[Pg 110] country robbing and stealing, promptly retorted with a vigorous box on the Abbot's ear—at the Abbot's own table. The Count thereupon withdrew, but shortly after paid the monastery an even more hostile visit, setting fire to the village and burning it down to the ground. In punishment he was sentenced by the Emperor to abstain for life from wearing a helmet. Hence the bare head and flowing locks of the Knight of Waldburg, always to be seen in the thick of the fray, which became a valued feature in the family escutcheon. But at the time of which I am speaking the Waldburgs were thoroughly peaceable folk. The particular knight of Welf's day had, as it happened, a lovely daughter, just about two years younger than young Welf, who, of course, fell desperately in love with Bertha, as in return Bertha did with him. Hundreds of innocent little amatory interviews took place between the two, either at Waldburg or else in the forest, with the full acquiescence of Kuno, who saw nothing to object to in the proposed match. However, Kuno died, and was in his guardianship replaced by a monk of a very different character—Anthony, a schemer and intriguer—who would without doubt have been a Jesuit, if the Order had been then established. To Welf's utter dismay, this Anthony, one fine morning, informed his young charge that in the interest alike of the Guelph family and of the Church he, a youth of eighteen, must forthwith marry Gregory VIIth's friend, Matilda of Canossa, Spoleto, &c., the persecutress of Henry IV., a Guelph herself, the widow of Godfrey the Hunchback of Lorraine, very rich and very powerful—nobilissimi ac ditissimi marchionis Bonifacii filia—but mannish—femina virilis animi—accustomed to leading her own men in battle,[Pg 111] scheming, ugly, ill-tempered, and forty-three to boot. Hers were splendid possessions—Parma, and Mantua, and Ferrara, and Spoleto, and Reggio, and Lucca, and Tuscany. But all these riches were as nothing in the eyes of Welf, who had made up his mind that he must marry Bertha, aged sixteen, or no one. A little plot was quickly concocted, and one fine night Welf, in disguise, might be seen slyly escorting Bertha, likewise in disguise, and accompanied only by her private maid, Francisca, through the forest down to Lindau, on the border of the lake, where a boat was in readiness to bear the fugitives across to Constance. From that place, Welf said—probably thinking of his mother's connections with our country—"we will make our way straight to England, where a Guelph's arm and sword are sure to be welcome and to find employment." The lake was reached, and the oars splashed briskly over the smooth surface—when all of a sudden, at half-way, over goes the boat, capsizing, and Bertha sinks down to the bottom, to be seen no more. Diving, and swimming, and calling proved all in vain. Thoroughly unhappy, indifferent to anything that might happen, Welf consents to wed the elderly Matilda, with whom he settles down to live at Spoleto, sullenly resigning himself to his fate. One day a nun begs to be allowed to see him. She turns out to be Francisca, the maid, driven by qualms of conscience to make a frank confession of a horrid crime committed. Bribed by Monk Anthony, she said, she had on that disastrous night drugged poor Bertha with a handkerchief—then, when she was thoroughly drowsy, on the sly tied a stone to her feet—whereupon Anthony, disguised as a boatman, had overturned the boat. Anthony had[Pg 112] told her that there was no sin in all this, it was an act ad majorem Dei gloriam; but her conscience would leave her no peace. Next day, at her own wish, Francisca was executed as a murderess, and Welf left his wife—who turned out to have been a party to the conspiracy—in anger and disgust, vowing to see her no more, and formally repudiating her before long—nescio quo interveniente divorcio, says the monkish chronicler.
We have now reached the very eve of that brilliant period when the Guelphs appeared to have risen, rapidly, high above other dynasties—only to sink even more suddenly to a humble level of prosaic obscurity, on which they were destined to continue for centuries. The records of that brief spell of meteoric greatness read like a romance. The Guelphs were giants, visibly overtopping all their contemporaries. Henry "the Great," Henry "the Generous," Henry "the Lion"—their very names tell of vigour and influence, of strength of character and striking individuality. Their domains came to stretch from sea to sea, from the Northern Ocean, which we call the German, to the Mediterranean—and breadthways across the whole Continent of Germany, eastward into those still only half-explored Slav regions in which dwelt the uncultured Bodricians and Luticzians, backed by the Russians and the Poles. Even Denmark was in a state of dependence upon them. And the Guelph Duchies represented a power almost superior to that of the Empire. Had not Frederick Barbarossa been so very great a ruler, it is said, Henry the Lion's realm would infallibly have either swallowed up the rest of Germany or else have constituted itself a separate Empire. Under Henry the Generous the Imperial Crown seemed to lie actually[Pg 113] at the feet of the Guelph dynasty. They need but have stooped a little to pick it up. But stooping was the one thing which they could not bring themselves to do. As a result they were jockeyed out of this prize just as their late successor was the other day jockeyed out of his kingdom of Hanover. Germany, it is to be feared, lost more by that shabby trick than did the Guelphs. Under a race of heroes like those Henrys, with plenty of power of their own at their back to support them against rivals and malcontents, it did not seem too much to expect that something like the halcyon days of the Saxon emperors might have been brought back. All ended in smoke. There was that family quarrel between Guelphs and Ghibellines, which ruined both houses—unfortunately, the Guelphs first. It seems a strange coincidence that the two rival cousins, Frederick Barbarossa and Henry the Lion, should both have been born at Ravensburg. It seems odd, also, that after being long the warmest of friends, the two houses should have become such implacable foes. The Hohenstaufens had no one but Welf IV. to thank for the Swabian crown. It was he who had extorted it from Henry IV. And it seems more than strange, it seems hard, cruel, and unjust, that not only should the Guelphs a second time have been punished in their private capacity for what they had done in the service of the Empire, but that, moreover, the Emperor's persecution, which led to their fall, should have been, as I shall show, the direct consequence of loyal service rendered to the Imperial Crown.
Welf the Fifth's was a brief reign—and about the only pacific one in that early period. A staunch friend to the[Pg 114] Pope, but at the same time strictly loyal to the Emperor, he managed to overcome resistance, say the monks of Weingarten, "by liberality and graciousness rather than by cruelty and force." His brother, Henry, surnamed variously "the Black," and "the Great," was a man of entirely different mould. He it was who about 1100 first acquired by marriage with Wulfhilde, the daughter of Magnus, Duke of Saxony, the valuable "allodium" of Lüneburg, which up to 1866 formed the nucleus of Guelph possessions in Northern Germany. Henry's son, Henry the Generous, bettered that example by obtaining the Saxon Dukedom. He was a staunch friend to Lothair of Saxony, the Emperor of his time—married his daughter Gertrude—and in his support made war upon the Hohenstaufens, who had seized, without claim or title, Imperial territory, more especially the city of Nuremberg. In 1126 his troops carried Nuremberg by storm, and as a reward Lothair conferred the Dukedom of Saxony upon his son-in-law, who thereby came to hold two dukedoms at the same time. The victory over the Hohenstaufens was completed a few years later by Henry's capture (on behalf of the Empire) of Ulm. Clearly Henry was altogether in the right. But the Hohenstaufens, smarting under deserved defeat, seized the opportunity of his absence—in Italy, where he was, to attend the Emperor's coronation—to ravage his lands in revenge. Of course, he retaliated. And thus was begun that memorable great feud which rent Germany in two and brought it down to the very brink of ruin and disintegration. The sad result might still have been averted if the general expectation had been fulfilled, and Henry the Generous[Pg 115] had been elected to the Imperial throne. So confident was Lothair of his succession that at his death he entrusted the Imperial insignia—those precious clenodia of Trifels—to him for keeping. But the Hohenstaufens baulked him by a clever election trick. Summoning the Electing Princes—a very indeterminate body at that time—with the exception only of the Bavarians and the Saxons, privately to Coblenz—not by any means a proper place for the purpose—they easily secured the choice of Conrad, in which the Saxons weakly acquiesced—being then still new to the rule of their Duke—and which the Pope, just as weakly, confirmed. Little he knew what a scourge he was binding for the punishment of his successors. Those two confirmations practically decided the issue. Nevertheless, so little assured did Conrad feel of his position that he fled from Augsburg by night, fearing an attack from the Guelphists. Arrived at Würzburg, contrary to all law and justice, he condemned Henry unheard, proclaimed against him the sentence of proscription (reichsacht), and declared him to have forfeited both his Duchies. A furious contest ensued, Welf VI. fighting in Bavaria, Henry in Saxony. In Germany the two factions are commonly spoken of as "Welf" and "Waiblingen." But it is by no means certain that the latter name is correct. It is quite as possible that "Ghibelline" may be intended to stand for "Giebelingen," the name of the castle in which Frederick Barbarossa was brought up, and near which the Hohenstaufens gained one of their first decisive victories over the Guelphs. In the south things went for the most part against the latter. Welf VI. had been [Pg 116]christened "the German Achilles." He tried to justify that name—being seconded, rather feebly, by the Kings of Hungary and of Sicily. But in spite of all his fighting, as the Bavarians showed themselves lukewarm, his efforts fell short of adequate success. In the north things went better. The Saxons, holding strong views in favour of what we should term State rights, manfully stood by their Duke, who pressed the Hohenstaufen Emperor so hard, that before long Conrad was almost compelled to ask for an armistice. The armistice was granted; and before it came to an end Henry died at Quedlinburg—it is said by poison. That left the Guelphs at a serious disadvantage. For Welf VI. had quite as much to do as he could manage, to maintain himself as a belligerent in the south. And in the north, besides the Duchess Gertrude and her mother, the Empress Richenza, there was only Henry the Lion, a boy of ten, to head the rebel tribe. Conrad skilfully disarmed Gertrude by persuading her, still quite a young woman, to marry Leopold of Austria, the new Duke of Bavaria, and to assent, as a condition of that marriage, to her son's waiver of his rights in the south. In the north we find Berlin stretching out its hands eagerly for the Guelph Duchy—just as in 1866—but without success. The covetous Margrave of Brandenburg, I ought to explain, was not a Hohenzollern, but Albert the Bear. The Hohenzollerns were at that time still very small folk—so small that some years later, when Welf VI., disgusted with affairs of state, and grieving over the loss of his son, gave himself up to a life of reckless pleasure, and held a private court at Zurich, in ostentatious magnificence, we find the Count[Pg 117] of Zollern of those days in attendance upon him, as a sort of noble retainer. Once Henry attained his majority, he quickly made his power felt. He must have been a character whom one could not help admiring. Brave, chivalrous, frank, generous to a fault, and zealously solicitous for the welfare of his subjects, for the extension of commerce, the improvement of agriculture, the development of self-government, a friend and supporter to every kind of progress—but, at the same time, headstrong, rash, impetuous—he seemed the very beau-ideal of knighthood, a man morally as well as physically of the colossal stature that the sculptor has attributed to him at Brunswick—a fit companion for his brother-in-law and staunch ally, Richard Cœur-de-Lion. For a time fortune favoured Henry. The Wends were constantly making incursions into German territory, keeping the border provinces in a state of perpetual disturbance. The Emperor alone was no match for them. Henry was sent for; and, like a German Charles Martel, he struck down Prince Niklot and his host with crushing blows. The result was a short-lived reconciliation with the Emperor, and Henry's reinstatement, for a brief period, in both his Duchies—Bavaria having, however, previously been reduced in size by the cutting off of what is now Austria. Had Henry but had the prudence to use his opportunities, all might still have been well. For Welf VI. made him an offer of his Italian possessions—Spoleto, Tuscany and Sardinia—a valuable point d'appui, which must have helped Henry to maintain his balance in Germany, or at the very least to save more than he did out of the subsequent wreck. In the course of a life of lavish [Pg 118]prodigality, Welf had come to an end of his available resources. He wanted money. Now, would Henry buy those Italian possessions of him? Henry declined, calculating a little too securely upon an unbought inheritance at Welf's death. In that calculation he made a great mistake. Welf, angry at his refusal, repeated the offer to his other nephew, Frederick Barbarossa, who as a matter of course jumped at it. And so the opportunity was lost. Fresh contests ensued, fresh proscriptions, banishments, outlawry. As an exile Henry was driven to seek the protection of his ally Richard, taking refuge repeatedly in Normandy and in England. Then he managed to renew the fight—and at last, by the Emperor's grace, he received back, of all his vast dominions, those little principalities of Brunswick and Lüneburg, which to almost the present day have remained specifically identified with Guelph rule, and in which the Guelph Counts and Dukes—subsequently Electors and Kings—managed to live on in their prosaic, humdrum, humble way, powerless and uninteresting princelets of the great German family of little sovereigns—till an accident, lucky for them, called them across to England.
One brief flickering-up there was, before their candle finally went out on the larger scene of continental politics. But it was a very poor flickering indeed, and no credit to any one concerned. A Guelph became Emperor at last. But no thanks to his own prowess or his own merit, or to a bonâ-fide popular choice. It was our Cœur-de-Lion who, at the Pope's partisan instigation, to avenge his own humiliation at Hagenau—with the help of his "multa pecunia," as chroniclers [Pg 119]relate—forced his nephew, Otto IV., on the throne which, according to strict law, had already young Frederick II. for an occupant. It was a poor, weak travesty of a reign. Had not Philip of Swabia opportunely died, it would have been no reign at all.
For many a century the star of the Guelphs seemed set. The "viri nobiles, egregiæ libertatis" of ancient times counted for little in the game of European politics. Early in the present century the elder line, that of Wolfenbüttel, brought forth one more hero of the old Guelph type—that brave Brunswicker who, in the great war of German liberation, by his brilliant gallantry quickened all Young Germany to a more fiery patriotism. The younger line, that of Lüneburg, found a new sphere of action opened to it in this country, and now lives to perpetuate, on a Throne even greater than that which "the Generous" and "the Lion" had filled, that
Inter Flores lilium,
Inter Illustres Illustrissimus
Eorum memoria in Benedictione."
Under the new aspect of things, if, fortunately, Henry the Lion's bold bent for war be wanting, his characteristic care for the welfare of his subjects has been retained; and it is a satisfaction to know, in a reign that has happily outlived its Jubilee, that there is no longer occasion for that sorrowful plaint to which, in the warlike days of the race, Countess Itha gave expression—the wife of the great-grandson of Eticho II., of Ammergau—that "No Guelph was ever known to live to a great age."
In Windsor Castle, in the Vandyke Room, there is a portrait which has puzzled a good many visitors. It is an undoubted Vandyke; it shows a pretty face—a trifle sensual, perhaps—but who the lady may have been whose features it immortalises, nobody seems to be able to tell. "Somebody"—"Somebody connected with Charles II."—"Some French lady"—are guesses rather than information offered. "Murray" used to call the lady by her right name. But lately, for some reason or other, she has in his description become transformed into "Madame de St. Croix," which probably sounds "safer." Formerly she figured as "Beatrix de Cusance, Princesse de Cantecroix," which was correct—unless the more illustrious title be given her which for a few brief hours she legitimately bore, though never actually crowned, that of "Duchess of Lorraine."
[Pg 121]There is a good deal of history graven in those smiling features—curious, changeful history of their bearer's own life—and history, more important, of nations, on which she exercised a decisive influence. It was thinking of her, not least, that Richelieu penned those truthfully reproachful words:—"Les plus grandes et les plus importantes menées qui se fassent en ce royaume sont ordinairement commencées et conduites par des femmes." Without her and Madame de Chevreuse—perhaps, it would be too much to say that France might still be without that Lorraine of which she felt it so great a hardship to lose a portion in 1871; but certainly the tide of events during the past three centuries would have taken a very different course from that which it actually did—different, probably, for the better.
Beatrix was "somebody connected with our Charles II."—it is quite true. Without that link with our own Court her portrait would scarcely have found a place in Windsor Castle, and the sorry poet Flecknoe—Dryden's "MacFlecknoe"—would certainly not have rhymed upon her beauty and "vertue" in most halting and unmelodious lines, now long forgotten even by students of literature. But her connection with our "gay monarch" was of the briefest, a mere sly nibbling at forbidden fruit while the real good-man was away, closely watched by Spanish guards in the dark tower of Toledo—that same martial and romantic duke, to whom our Charles I. addressed urgent prayers to become his saviour, and on whom he conferred the proud title of "Protector of Ireland." It seems odd now—to us, with our modern notions of Lorraine, as a small[Pg 122] and very helpless province of France—to think, that on the wayward ruler of that petty duchy, himself at the time an exile, should our Charles have built up hopes of his own preservation in the storms of the Great Rebellion. There can, however, be no doubt about the fact. In June, 1651, Viscount Taaffe, Sir Nicholas Plunket, and Geffrey Browne, by order of the Marquis of Clanricarde, King Charles's deputy, formally waited upon Duke Charles IV. of Lorraine at Brussels, "to solicit his aid in favour of the unhappy kingdom of Ireland." The mission was considered of such pressing importance that Lord Taaffe, in order not to delay it, put off the call which in duty he owed to the Duke of York, then residing at Antwerp. Charles IV. rather rashly undertook the office pressed upon him, formally accepted the style and title of "Protector of Ireland," fitted out—though not owning an inch of seaboard—a man-of-war, which he christened "Espérance de Lorraine"—and there the matter ended.
With this adventurous Charles IV. was the life of the beautiful Beatrix bound up from girlhood to death. It was a romantic affair—in some of its episodes a little sadly comical—and, since we have constituted ourselves guardians of her effigy, her story may be worth telling.
The Cusances were an old, distinguished, and very wealthy family in the Franche Comté, when the Comté was still a province, not of France, but of the Empire. At the present time the "Almanach de Gotha" knows them no more, nor any French or German "Peerage." But in their own day they ranked among the best of[Pg 123] bloods; the strains of the Hapsburghs and the Granvelles mingled in their veins. "Gentillesse de Cusance" had in whilom Burgundy become a proverbial saying. The family owned a wide tract of territory in the mountainous country through which flows the Doubs, and among those hills, forming part of the Jura, stood, twenty miles from Besançon, their Castle Belvoir. Of this proud family Beatrix was, with two sisters—one of whom became a nun, while the other married a cousin on the mother's side, a Count de Berghes, of the Low Countries—left the last offspring. There was no male to perpetuate the name. At twenty she was known as "la personne la plus belle et la plus accomplie de la province." People raved about her. Abbé Hugo, the Lorrain Duke's father-confessor, in his MS. History (which has never been published, for fear of giving offence to the French), describes her as "of a little more than middle height, and exquisitely proportioned." "She possessed," he said, "just sufficient embonpoint to impart to her une mine haute et un port majestueux." Her face, something between oval and round, was marked by a particularly clear complexion and an animated expression. Her eyes were blue and well-placed; her hair was of a light ash colour; her mouth was small, and of a brilliant red; her teeth were of pearly whiteness, and well-ranged; neck, arms, hands were all "beautifully delicate, white, and admirably shaped"; in fact, you could not desire a more perfect specimen of feminine humanity.
With this beauty it was the happy, or unhappy, lot of the no less engaging Charles IV. to become acquainted at the impressionable age of thirty, when to the[Pg 124] eye, at any rate, he represented all that was manly and chivalrous. He was then the beau-ideal of the sex, unequalled in all accomplishments peculiar to the privileged Man of the tip-top strata, a brilliant horseman, fencer, tilter, and love-maker in the bargain—a veritable "Don Juan, alike in love and in politics," as his own historian, M. des Robert, has aptly styled him.
The two were for the first time brought into contact in 1634. Charles was then for the moment—a pretty protracted moment—a lackland prince. Counting a little too confidingly upon the help of that "Empire" which was always ready to claim and never ready to protect, and moreover upon equally treacherous Spain, he had defied France—with the result of being turned out of his dominions by her. But if Charles was driven from his duchy, he had carried his brilliant little army with him—there was no better in Europe. He had gained a high reputation already as a dashing general and a tactician of ready resource. The French feared him, in spite of their superior numbers. The Austrians and Spaniards were eager for his alliance, and willing to pay him his own price. He was stationed, in command of his own troops and some Spaniards, at Besançon, where life was then made gay indeed to the military visitors. Very butterfly that he was—forgetting altogether his homely Duchess Nicole, who was far away—Charles fluttered about merrily from flower to flower, almost thankful to Providence for having by her otherwise harsh judgment driven him to such captivating pastures new for the cult of Cupid. He was told, of course, of the bewitching beauty sojourning in the same city. Sated already with objects of admiration, he, however,[Pg 125] at first scarcely paid heed to the praises of her charms. But once he met her, the hearts of both were in a twinkling set aflame.
Charles did not at the time enjoy the best of reputations among respectable folk. He had dabbled a little too freely in illicit loves. Accordingly, old Madame de Cusance observed the young people's mutual passion with very reasonable alarm—and, to prevent its being carried to dangerous lengths, she packed Beatrix off in hot haste to lonely Belvoir. To a lover of Charles's mettle, however, twenty miles was a stimulus rather than an obstacle to love-making. Every day saw him galloping out to pursue his courting. There were French spies and scouts stationed all round, watching for the cavalier, eager to carry him off, as their comrades had not long before carried off our ambassador, Montagu, to Coiffy. By narrow breakneck paths, which are shown to the present day, Charles threaded his way adventurously through the forest, where it seems a marvel that he did not again and again come to grief. No feat, however, was too hazardous, no risk too great for him to encounter in the pursuit of his romantic passion. Accordingly, the old lady, like a prudent, motherly Dutch matron that she was, saw nothing for it but to carry her daughter very much further away still, to Brussels, where she had her family mansion, the Hotel Berghes. There Charles could not at once follow her, for he had his army to look after; and, moreover, the French stood in the way like a massive wall. No sooner, however, had he gathered his fresh bays on the field of Nördlingen, and brought the campaign of 1635 to a more or less satisfactory close, than, still[Pg 126] homeless and landless, he hurried likewise to Brussels, which was then the recognised gathering-place of all the poor victims of Richelieu's grasping policy. However, in one way he had been forestalled. In the interval the old countess, thinking in her innocence that nothing could so effectually put a stop to undesirable love-making as an actual marriage, had compelled her beautiful daughter to marry Leopold D'Oiselet, Prince de Cantecroix, a great personage both in the Franche Comté and in Germany. That ought to have made all things sure. In truth, it did nothing of the kind. Beatrix and Charles remained as infatuatedly in love as before, and pursued their amour seemingly with all the greater zest and determination, because there was now a legal hindrance. The husband, as it happened, was not the only difficulty in the way. All the Lorrain princes and princesses—expelled, like Charles, from their own country, and assembled in the capital of the Austrian Netherlands—set their faces dead against the lady, and positively refused to have anything to do with her. Beatrix did not care. She could afford to snap her fingers at Nicole, Nicolas-Francois, Claude, Henriette, and the rest of them, so long as Charles remained true to her; and soon we find her, the lawful wife of Prince Cantecroix, openly avowing herself "the fiancée" of the Lorrain Duke, who was himself lawfully married.
The old lady, foiled once more in her precautions, once more packed her daughter off out of harm's way—this time back to Besançon. As a matter quite of course Charles hereupon proposed to the crowned heads with whom he was in league, that the next campaign[Pg 127] must necessarily be carried on in the Franche Comté, where, indeed, the French had somewhat alarmingly gained the upper hand, and were at that time rather embarrassingly (for the Spaniards) investing Dôle. As if to support him in his pleading, a deputation of Comtois magnates arrived at Brussels, headed, for irony, by the Prince de Cantecroix himself, petitioning the victor of Nördlingen, with all the urgency of which they were masters, to come to their rescue. Charles did not keep them waiting long. He promptly led his army back to their old quarters at Besançon, where he scarcely repaid Cantecroix in a Christian spirit. For his father-confessor informs us that, being a devout "Catholic," and believing implicity in the efficacy of masses, he caused no less than three thousand such to be said, to obtain from Heaven his rival's death. He drove the French away from Dôle, but after that he would not stir another finger. Fighting was all very well, but there was metal more attractive at Besançon. The old countess, had submitted at last to the inexorable ruling of fate. It was of no use transporting Beatrix backwards and forwards, while Charles followed so persistently after, and her own husband was so blind, or else so helpless. Things must be allowed to take their course.
Charles's masses had the desired effect. In February, 1637 the Prince de Cantecroix died. In his testament he provided liberally for "ma bien aimée femme"—which femme loyally lost no time in transferring herself from his house to one belonging to the duke.
M. de Cantecroix being out of the way, the next thing to be done was to remove the no less inconvenient Duchess Nicole. From her right to the throne Charles[Pg 128] had already ousted her by a really grotesque farce enacted in concert with his father. Charles does not appear to have had masses said for Nicole's death, but he very assiduously consulted the learned of Church and State concerning the possibility of obtaining a legal declaration of nullity of marriage. This was an easier matter in those days than it is now; because, for want of any other plea, there was always the charge of witchcraft to fall back upon—a charge much in favour with "the Church." Charles decided to play this trump card. There was a priest, Melchior de la Vallée, a chosen protégé of the late duke, who had baptized Nicole. He was now alleged to have been a sorcerer before he performed the rite of baptism. Ergo, he was incompetent lawfully to baptize; ergo, Nicole was not properly baptized; ergo, she was not a Christian; ergo: the whole marriage must be void. Witnesses were, of course, produced to prove the case, and poor Melchior, having been duly condemned, was orthodoxly burnt at Custines—the place in which Mary Queen of Scots had spent her youth. His property was declared forfeited to the Crown—to be eventually employed by Charles, in a fit of remorse, to endow, by way of pious compensation, the great Chartreuse of Bosserville near Nancy.
That part of the business had been easily accomplished. It remained, on the ground of this condemnation, to upset the obnoxious marriage. The Duke's Chancellor, Le Moleur, was easily persuaded to pronounce an "opinion" to the effect desired, and, armed with this, he was promptly sent to Rome, accompanied by the Duke's father-confessor, Cheminot, to obtain a Papal judgment in accordance with it. The whole thing looked so plausible[Pg 129] as readily to silence the last remaining doubts of Beatrix; and just nine days after Cantecroix's death the two lovers put their signatures to the marriage contract which was to make them man and wife. Less than five weeks later the marriage was formally celebrated in a characteristic hole-and-corner fashion. On the evening of April 2, 1637, the duke's physician, Forget, brought the vicaire (curate) of the parish of S. Pierre in Besançon a written authority from his curé (rector) to celebrate Sacraments wherever he might be called upon to do so. That done, the vicaire is led by Forget on a roundabout way into Charles's house, where he finds a sumptuous supper awaiting him. The food and liquor despatched, the unsuspecting curate is, in a temper which disposes him to comply with almost any demand, taken into Charles's own chamber, where the duke bluntly informs him: "Tu es ici pour bénir notre mariage." Even in spite of the supper, the curate hesitates. But the duke will stand no parleying. The ceremony is gone through. The young couple, to place themselves entirely in order, comply with the custom of the diocese to the very tittle: embrace, break a loaf of bread between them, drink out of the same glass, and the thing is done. The curate receives twenty doubloons for his pains, and is, like everybody else present, pledged to silence.
Secrecy was, however, under the circumstances, absolutely out of the question, probably not even seriously desired. Soon after we find the duke publicly owning Beatrix as his wife, and giving orders that she shall be treated as duchess and styled "Altesse." She lives with Charles, rides with him, shows herself by his side to his soldiers, who conceive a violent fancy for her.[Pg 130] Nicole and the Lorrain princes and princesses protest. But they are far away, and can do no hurt. The old countess is brought to acquiesce in the marriage, and all seems to go as merrily as could be wished. Beatrix's sister, the nun of Gray, confesses to pious scruples, and implores her sister not to do what is wicked, but is silenced with a simple "Vous n'êtes qu'une enfant." To make all things sure, Mazarin, anxious to obtain from Charles an advantageous peace, promises his all-powerful interest with the Curia. The peace duly signed, Beatrix and her husband religiously undertake, side by side, a pilgrimage to Bonsecours, where they pray for Heaven's blessing upon their union, and afterwards hold their formal entry into Nancy, to the bewilderment of her husband's loyal subjects, who, not knowing what to make of the double wedlock, cry out lustily: "Que Dieu protège et bénisse le bon Duc Charles et ses deux femmes!"
But there was mischief brewing. Nicole and her belongings would have been less than human if they had not set heaven and earth in motion to upset the new irregular union. When Cheminot and Le Moleur arrived at Rome to bespeak the Pope's approval, they found the Prince Nicolas-François already there, actively counterworking their game, on which even without such opposing influence the Vatican could scarcely have been expected to smile. In the place of approval, they received nothing but black looks, coupled with a strict injunction to the Lady Beatrix not on any account to pretend to the title of "Duchess."
Of course Charles's "Petite Paix" lasted only a few weeks. Instead of leading his troops into the[Pg 131] French camp as supports, as he had agreed, he took them straight to the Spanish headquarters, with the inevitable result of being once more turned out of his country, and finding himself an exile at large. These misfortunes, however, sat lightly upon the gay-hearted monarch, while he had the lovely Beatrix by his side, starring it with her at the Courts of Worms, Luxemburg, and Brussels, and insisting everywhere upon Beatrix being treated as duchess. He had given her her own body-guard, her own establishment of maids of honour, allowed her to hold her courts and drawing-rooms, just like a reigning princess.
Meanwhile, concurrently with the Pope's judgment, another matter was slowly ripening. All this marrying and re-marrying had, as a matter of course, led to litigation. Prince Cantecroix had left a goodly fortune, for the possession of which his mother, the Marquise d'Autriche, and his cousin, M. de Saint Amour, were then fighting fiercely.
While Charles and Beatrix were attending at Malines, as important witnesses in this case, what should unexpectedly arrive but a brief from the Pope, directing the archbishop to proclaim the judgment pronounced on that half-forgotten application of Le Moleur's and Cheminot's! It had taken His Holiness some years to come to a decision even on the preliminary point, that of the marriage with Beatrix; on the main question, the validity of Charles's marriage with Nicole, the judgment was still silent. But Charles's marriage with Beatrix the document declared entirely illegal and invalid, formally threatening both parties concerned with major excommunication if they did not at once separate and[Pg 132] thereafter continue apart, and, moreover, within a given time, purge themselves by a public and humiliating penance. To Beatrix this judgment came as a crushing blow. However, she yielded prompt obedience, removing at once to the distant Hombourg Haut, near Saint-Avold.
Charles evidently cared very much less about the separation, however little he might relish the idea of a penance. It looks very much as if he had already grown a little tired of the lovely Beatrix. She was still very beautiful, and had any amount of love-making left in her. Her little amour with Charles II. was still to come; and that portrait to be seen at Windsor, which so much enamoured Flecknoe, actually shows her as she was a little later. However, the toujours perdrix of one particular beauty had evidently begun to pall upon Charles's exacting taste. He managed very soon to find some cheering consolation for his loss, to the infinite entertainment of the gay Court of Brussels—which delighted in scandal, and was constantly on the look out for some fresh amusement. Charles provided such, very opportunely, by a quite unexpected new amour, which was certainly not wanting in originality. Charles suddenly fell over head and ears in love with the very bourgeoise daughter of the Burgomaster of Brussels. He pressed his heart and hand upon her again and again. No effort was too great for him to make in prosecution of his suit, no expense too lavish. The girl found herself serenaded, fêted, asked to all sorts of festivities—tournaments, concerts, balls—all arranged specifically in her honour. She found jewellery showered upon her. And, to secure her good will, the proud Carlovingian Duke even condescended to compete[Pg 133] with the humble burghers at the popular kermesse, in the cross-bow shooting at the "papegay," which, crack marksman that he was, he brought down in brilliant style, thereby constituting himself "papegay-king" for the year. That dignity imposed upon him the obligation of treating all the burghers and their young women to a flow of liquor—which liquor he did not stint—and, moreover, of holding a triumphal progress through the town—which he magnified into a sort of Lord Mayor's procession, himself appearing in the character of his own ancestor, Godfrey de Bouillon, encased in costly armour, with all his rich jewellery hung upon his person, and seated, high and lofty, upon a magnificent car. The buxom Flamande found all this mightily pretty, but scarcely knew what to make of it so long as her mother strictly forbade her to give the devoted Charles any encouragement, nor dare so much as to meet him in private. Once only was the mother prevailed upon to permit a tête-à-tête for just as long as Charles could manage to hold a live coal in his palm. To extend the time, Charles extinguished the fire by heroically crushing the coal with his fingers. All this tomfoolery amused the Court intensely. But people were just a little astounded when Charles carried his devotion so far as to refuse to treat with the Spanish plenipotentiaries for a renewal of his treaty, unless their Excellencies would first secure the approval and advocacy of his Flemish Dulcinea. The Spaniards needed the Lorrain troops badly, and so submitted for the time—but they had their revenge.
Of course the news of all this love-making brought Beatrix back pretty promptly to the Low Countries. As an excuse she alleged a burning desire to be reconciled to the[Pg 134] Church, whose censure her sensitive conscience could no longer endure. Charles was by no means equally impatient. However, late in 1645, he too at length consented, and, accordingly, the two attended together to hear the Church's commination, prostrate themselves at full length before the altar, play the abject penitents throughout, confess their guilt, and receive episcopal absolution—all in the presence of a very large assemblage, which made the proceeding none the more pleasant for the principal actors.
That done, Beatrix settled down again, perhaps all the better pleased at finding that by his new treaty obligations Charles had bound himself to proceed immediately to the battle-fields in France. Whether she had a right to be severe upon Charles's little amatory escapades may appear a trifle doubtful by the light of her own conduct now that he was away. At Ghent she took a leaf out of his own book. The duke soon heard of her being in a close liaison with a Polish magnate, Prince Radzivill, jeune et bien fait, poli et galant. And not long after arrived the further intelligence that one of her most conspicuous and most successful admirers was our own "gay monarch," Charles Stuart, subsequently Charles II., who was then a refugee in the Netherlands. There is no reason to believe that these misfeasances were in any way belittled to Charles's ear, seeing that it was Princess Marguerite, the Duchess of Orleans, his sister, who played the principal tale-bearer, a lady who, like all the Lorrain princesses, had a direct interest in bringing Charles's connection with Beatrix to a close. Charles took the bait. He was furious with the Princess de Cantecroix. He would repudiate her for good. He would be reconciled[Pg 135] on the spot with Nicole. All seemed to herald a happy and creditable ending to the misunderstanding of years, when, all of a sudden, Beatrix announced herself enceinte, and by that announcement upset the whole carefully reared-up house of cards. Nicole had borne the duke no son. Here was the prospect of one. Throwing the Pope's warning to the winds, forgetting and forgiving all about Beatrix's wrong-doings, Charles rushed to join her, and was overjoyed to be able to be present at the birth of what was destined to be his only son, Charles, subsequently the gifted and distinguished Prince de Vaudémont, our William III.'s confidant and adviser, and the elder Pretender's potent patron and ally. The Papal Nuncio and the Archbishop of Malines were horrorstruck at this barefaced breaking of a solemn oath. But no serious harm came of it after all. Only, it was a little provoking to find that when the confinement was over, and Charles's back was once more turned, Beatrix calmly resumed her illicit flirtations, of which the Lorrain princesses, more particularly the Princess Marguerite, were not slow to advise the duke.
Charles's patience was now completely worn out. As soon as he could manage it, he posted back to the Low Countries, resolved, as he declared, to "mettre deux folles à la raison." One folle, of course, was Beatrix—whom Charles protested that nothing would induce him ever to take into favour again; and the other was his sister Henriette, who had distinguished herself by a very unconventional match indeed, her third, between herself, aged fifty, and the youthful Italian banker, Grimaldi, aged twenty-seven. There[Pg 136] were some utilitarian arguments to plead in excuse of the marriage. Henriette had spent her last écu, had sold every bit of property of hers that was at all saleable, and was deep in debt to boot; and Grimaldi had money. But nothing would justify the extraordinary proceeding which these two lovers, driven into a corner, resorted to, of, so to speak, "springing themselves" upon the unsuspecting Archbishop of Malines, and simultaneously declaring their intention to be man and wife, before he could so much as utter a word of protest. That constituted, the archbishop had himself previously explained, a legal marriage according to canon law.
Charles found Beatrix at Antwerp. He at once seized her house in all legal form, fretting and fuming with rage, and refusing to listen to a word which she might say in explanation. He had everything put under lock and key, sentries placed before the door, and, overhauling all the furniture with his own hands, he claimed back all the property which the lady held from him; above all, that very valuable collection of jewellery for which the Lorrain Court was noted. To his dismay he found that a portion of it was gone. That made matters ten times worse. The missing pieces must necessarily have been given to Beatrix's galants.
The Lorrain princes and princesses were delighted to observe a fresh rupture, and spared no pains to fan the flame. As it happened, at this very time, in 1654, the Papal Tribunal of the "Rota" had at last made up its mind how to adjudicate upon that old plea first raised in 1637, and formally laid before the Pope in 1642—the question of the validity of Charles's marriage with Nicole. The "Rota" ruled the whole suit to be[Pg 137] frivolous. The marriage had been "freely contracted," was therefore binding, and, not to be troubled again with anything of the sort, the Court imposed upon Beatrix "perpetual silence." Charles accepted the judgment readily; indeed, he was so earnestly bent upon reconciliation with Nicole, that he seriously talked of having her excommunicated, should she withhold her consent. All seemed once more coming right, in spite of itself, when Europe was surprised by a gross outrage against law and good faith, namely, the high-handed seizure by the Spanish governor, Fuensaldana, of the Duke of Lorraine, and his removal, as a prisoner, to the distant Castle of Toledo. Six long years was the duke destined to pine in that unwholesome, dark, barred tower, a prey to vermin and to all discomforts, and a victim to ever freshly-raised, ever sorely-disappointed hopes. The very Spaniards around him pitied him. The ladies of Toledo conspired to liberate the interesting captive, who, in spite of his fifty years, was still handsome, nimble, full of courtesy and full of life. His own subjects braved tortures, galleys, death—everything, to effect his rescue. Never was ruler more beloved; rarely did he less deserve it. Nicole loyally forgot all past grievances, appealed to Mazarin, appealed to King Louis, appealed to the Pope. Beatrix likewise did her best—more especially after Nicole's death, in 1657—though roughly rated all the time by her wrathful and impatient late lover, who never for a day together knew his own mind. At one time he asked indignantly: Why did she not come to share his prison? At another he bade her stay where she was, since there she could be of greater use. A third time he would have nothing[Pg 138] whatever to say to her. When she sent her intendant, Pelletier, to Spain, to exert himself in the cause of the duke's liberation, Charles brought up the old charges of infidelity and misappropriation of his jewellery. But he was delighted to receive at Pelletier's hands the newly-painted portraits of his two children, Anne and Charles, to whom, as a partially redeeming feature in his character, he continued devoted to his dying day.
In 1660 Spain found that she could carry on war no longer. The result was the Treaty of the Pyrenees, which was rather dictated by Mazarin than negotiated between France and Spain, and which, among other things, provided that Charles should be set free. Purchasing the glory of a princely escort from the needy noblemen of Spain by a distribution of the full sum of compensation just received at Madrid, the duke hurried to Saint Jean de Luz in state, and there, with his habitual impetuosity, nearly got himself back into prison. The Spanish Ambassador, Don Louis de Haro, badgered beyond endurance by Charles, full of his complaints, seriously threatened to have the duke carried back to Toledo. This brought our rather romantic Stuart exile to the front, whom nobody then supposed to be so near becoming Charles II. of England. Indeed, Mazarin held him in such small estimation, that he would not even admit him to his presence. But on Don Louis, if he ever seriously intended fresh violence, this bold manœuvre had the desired effect. He promptly desisted from further threats. The Lorrain Charles, touched by the chivalrous conduct of his namesake, in a burst of gratitude generously offered the latter the free use of his purse—an offer which must[Pg 139] have been peculiarly welcome to the ever-impecunious Stuart—and frankly forgave him his rivalry in the matter of Beatrix, which looks, indeed, as if between him and her he now intended all to be over.
In truth, he did not leave the lady very long in doubt upon that point; for, finding her at Bar-le-Duc, when, on his way home from Paris, he passed through that town, he flatly declined to see her. She was staying with her daughter, whom in Paris Charles had got married to the Prince de Lillebonne, the governor of the Barrois. He was quite willing that Beatrix should be treated en duchesse, but at this time of day it surely was not to be expected that he would once more embroil himself with the Pope by breaking his oath! Just only for a few minutes did he at length consent to meet her, at the urgent supplication of both his children—outside Bar, in a little village; and then he was chillingly cold.
Otherwise, he had still fire enough left in him, when occasion required—as he showed not long after, when at Paris, while engaged on that hare-brained errand of concluding the "Treaty of Montmartre," he became madly enamoured of Marianne Pajot, the daughter of his brother-in-law's (the Duke of Orleans') apothecary. The marriage very nearly became a fact. Everything was ready, in spite of protests from all sides. The priest was waiting, the wedding-guests were in attendance, actually eating the wedding supper, and drinking the young couple's health—for precisely at midnight the ceremony was to be performed—when Du Tellier marched into the room with a guard, and at Louis XIV.'s order carried off Marianne to the convent of Ville l'Evêque.[Pg 140] "You would have had to take a syringe for your armorial device if you had married her," said Louis XIV. mockingly. "Yes," replied Charles, alluding to the treaty just concluded, "with the royal fleur-de-lys at the nozzle."
This was by no means Charles's last amour. Indeed, after various wildish escapades nearly leading to matrimony he, four years later, when arrived at the ripe age of sixty, actually took to wife a girl of thirteen, and settled down a tolerably staid and respectable husband at last. But this adventure with Marianne Pajot warned Beatrix, whose health was beginning seriously to fail, that if she wanted to become Charles's wife at all, she must be quick about it. Accordingly, when the two once more found themselves in close proximity, unwilling neighbours at Bar-le-Duc—she up in the castle, he in the lower town, to be out of her way—she took the liberty of reminding him of his repeated promises to obtain a dispensation from the Pope and get the marriage renewed. Charles was not at all prepared for such an appeal, which accordingly made him not a little cross. "Not yet," he pleaded, "il n'est pas encore temps de songer à notre mariage"—not when he was fifty-six and she nearly forty-six! Would he not consent at any rate to see her? God forbid; how could he, a devout "Catholic," presume to infringe the Pope's explicit command? Indeed, these repeated appearances of Beatrix, when she was not wanted, were becoming wearisome to him. She must keep out of the way. Let her go back to Besançon! He was duke and could command. But Beatrix, loth to fly from that which alone could cure her heartache, pleaded, like Lot, for a shorter journey. Might she not stay at Remiremont?[Pg 141] Charles acquiesced. In small Lorrain towns she spent the next year or so. Life was getting hard for her, in view of progressively failing health—harder under the painful sense of injustice and unfaithfulness. She gave herself up to religious devotions. At Mattaincourt it was, while she was burning candles and offering prayers to the Lorrain saint, P. Fourier, that the startling news reached her of a fresh amour into which Charles had thrown himself with all the ardour of a young man of twenty, an amour with the beautiful Isabelle de Ludres ("Matame te Lutre," as Madame de Sévigné called her, ridiculing the rough Lorrain accent), a most delicately-formed, symmetrically-shaped brunette, a very tit-bit of womanhood, destined to shine in after-time for a brief period in the changing firmament of Le Roi Soleil at Versailles, as an ephemeral favourite star. She was a canoness of Poussay—Lavandières they were called in the popular slang—looking probably all the prettier in her semi-religious garb, because its wear involved no religious obligations of any kind. The abbess had obligingly allowed Charles free access to the "nun," and there they were, acknowledged fiancé and fiancée, talking of the time when the marriage was to take place. To be near Isabella, Charles had moved his court to Mirecourt, which is just about halfway between Poussay and Mattaincourt, utterly unconscious probably of the proximity of Beatrix. There were daily fêtes, dances, tourneys, the whole bit of country seemed transformed into a "Garden of Love." It was like a ghost rising from the earth when Beatrix—pale, worn, haggard, but still erect and dignified in bearing—appeared on the scene, her marriage contract in her hand, to bid the young[Pg 142] canoness beware, and remind her lover of his promises and broken vows. What right had she to be there? asked Charles in a pet. Had he not bidden her go back to Besançon? Let her be off at once and not trouble him any more! Alas! in her state of health, travelling to Besançon was out of the question. She got as far as Mattaincourt, sending fresh precatory letters to faithless Charles. He would give them no heed. But she left him no peace. By a severe effort she got to Besançon at last. "She may disinherit your children," urged Charles's lawyers. "She may stop your marriage," chimed in the Churchmen. "Remember, she has but at longest a few weeks to live," added the doctors. "Really?" asked Charles with visible relief. "She cannot possibly live longer." Not a moment did he cease from his amatory merry-making preparatory to a contemplated new marriage. But, as there was time for celebrating a preliminary one in the interval, for his children's sake he consented to despatch a messenger to the Pope to demand a dispensation, which arrived just in time for the marriage with Beatrix to be solemnised while there was still breath in her. "Me voilà, bien honoré," whispered the dying woman, "à la fin de mes jours!" Scarcely had the priest left her bedside, when he was called in once more to celebrate another sacrament. "Ah! quelle union," gasped Beatrix, "du sacrement de mariage et de l'extrême onction!"
Thus ended, on June 5, 1663, the changeful life of that "excellents peace as Nature ever made," as wrote Richard Flecknoe in contemplation of her portrait at Windsor, full of "colour" and "freshness," and with eyes whose very lids were "than other eyes more[Pg 143] admirably fair," the lady who on the canvas in our royal castle looks so happy and serene, but who in real life tasted far more of the bitterness than of the sweet of man's fleeting love—not, certainly, without much fault on her own part, yet, in respect of her relations with Charles, surely more sinned against than sinning.
The news of her death found the feasting at Mirecourt at its merriest. Trumpets were sounding, flags were flying, drums were beating, all the jingle of the masquerade of court life was at its noisiest. The widower scarcely stopped in his amusements to order a brief formal mourning, which altered but the hue, not the spirit of the feast. For all that his labour was thrown away. Beatrix had, in self-defence, despatched a protest against the marriage to the Vicar-general of Toul, who, as a French bishop, stood in no sort of dependence upon the Duke of Lorraine—rather delighted in crossing him. Besides, Isabelle's mother, shocked at what she saw and heard, peremptorily forbade the marriage, and packed her daughter off in haste to the solitude of Richardménil.
When Beatrix's will was opened, it was found that she had not forgotten "her very dear husband." "As a token of respect and submission," she had "taken the liberty" of bequeathing to him—that very diamond ring with which he had wedded her, then the worship of all, twenty-six years before, when his own affection was still fresh and young, and his whole being seemed bound up in the life and possession of the fervently-loved young widow. At her death, certainly, she had this to boast of, that of all the beauties who had riveted Charles's affection, none had for so long a time[Pg 144] and with equal power held sway over his fickle heart. If she was neglected, it is some satisfaction to think that her children were honoured and cherished. On the Prince de Vaudémont Charles heaped what benefits he had to bestow. But the stain of his birth clung to him to his death. At one time Charles had hoped to seat him on the proud throne of the Carlovingians. When in 1723 he died, the Lorrain Courts found that no princely honours could be paid to his body. Quietly, without pomp and show, were his bones laid beside the bones of his father, in the Chartreuse of Bosserville, sad memorial that it remains of the duke's faithlessness to his first wife. Neither of Charles nor of Beatrix has any offspring survived. Of Charles even later Dukes of Lorraine have scarcely ever spoken without a protest. Beatrix lies buried at Besançon, and, after all, considering what evil she unwittingly brought upon her adopted country, the portrait which alone remains to recall what she was finds, perhaps, a more fitting place on the walls of Royal Windsor than could have been given to it in the historic hall of the more than half-destroyed palace of Nancy, or among the Lorrain portraits preserved, as a memorial of Lorrain-Hapsburg rule, in the museum of Florence.
Modern History is, in its rapid march onward, making sad havoc of old races. New nations are rising up; but only like new banks and headlands on our coast, by the accumulation of drifted shingle, which the very same tide is washing away from wasting older rocks. A generation or two hence, in the making of a new German people, the last remnant will have finally disappeared of an interesting race, which historians and archæologists alike, to whom it is known, will be loth to miss.
There are probably few Englishmen who have any very clear idea as to what and who the "Wends" or "Sorbs" are. Early in the last century, we read—I think it was in the year 1702—our Ambassador at Vienna, one Hales, travelling home by way of Bautzen, to his utter surprise found himself in that city in the[Pg 146] midst of a crowd of people, strange of form, strange of speech, strange of garb—but unquestionably picturesque—such as he had never before seen or heard of. They are there still, wearing the same dress, using the same speech, looking as odd and outlandish as ever. We need not go back to the records of Alfred the Great, of Wulfstan and Other, to learn what a powerful nation the Wends, one of the principal branches of the great Slav family, were in times gone by. In the days when Wendish warriors, like King Niklot, were feared in battle, their ships went forth across the sea, side by side with those of the Vikings, planting colonies on the Danish Isles, in Holland, in Spain—aye, very ambitious Slav historians will even have it that our own Sorbiodunum (Salisbury) is "the town of the Sorbs," founded by Sorb settlers in 449, and that to the same settlers—also styled Weleti (Alfred the Great calls them Vylte)—do our "Wilton" and "Wiltshire" owe their names. On the Continent they once overspread nearly all Germany. Hanover has its "Wendland," Brunswick its "Wendish Gate." Franconia, when ruinously devastated by intestinal wars of German races, was, at Boniface's instance, recultivated by immigrant Wends, famous in his days, and after, for their husbandry. The entire North German population, from the Elbe eastward, and north of the Bavarian and Bohemian mountains, is in descent far more Wendish than German. Wendish names, Wendish customs, Wendish fragments of speech, bits of Wendish institutions, survive everywhere, to tell of past Slav occupation. Altenburg is Wendish to a man, the Mecklenburgs are to the present day ruled even by Wendish grand dukes. Berlin, Potsdam, [Pg 147]Dresden, Lübeck, Leipzig, Schwerin, and many more German towns, still bear Wendish names.
There are now but a poor 150,000 or 160,000 left of this once powerful people. And that handful is dwindling fast. Every year sees the tide of spreading Germanism making further inroad on the minute domain which the Germanised Wends have left to their parent race in that much disputed territory, the Lusatias. Prussian administration, Prussian education, Prussian pedantic suppression of everything which is not neo-German, are rapidly quenching the still smoking flax. It boots little that the Saxon Government, kinder in its own smaller country, has, very late in the day, changed its policy, and is now striving to preserve what is, at its lowest valuation, a most interesting little piece of ethnographic archæology. It is much too late now to stop the march of Germanisation, which has pushed on so rapidly that even in the same family you may at the present day find parents still thoroughly Wendish, and priding themselves on their Wendish patronymics, and children wholly German, styling themselves by newly coined German names. Evidently the race is dying fast.
Its death was in truth prepared a long time ago. Once the Saxons had obtained the mastery, the poor Slavs were oppressed and persecuted in every way. They were forbidden to wear their own peculiar dress. They were forbidden to trade. The gates of their own towns were closed against them, or else opened only to admit them into a despised "ghetto." No man of culture dared to own himself a Wend. Accordingly, though they possess a language unique for its plasticity and pliancy, up to the time of the Reformation[Pg 148] written literature they had none. For centuries their race has been identified with the lowest walks in life. They must have their own parsons, of course; but that was all. Otherwise, hewers of wood and drawers of water, toiling cultivators of the soil, they were doomed to remain—very "serfs," lending, as we know, in the north, a peculiar name to that servile station ("serfs," from "serbs"), just as in the south "Slav" became the distinctive term for "slave."
To the eye of the archæologist, all this hardship has secured one compensating advantage. It has left the Wends—in dress, in customs, in habits of mind, in songs and traditions—most interestingly primitive. Everything specifically Wendish bears the unmistakable stamp of national childhood, early thought, old-world life. There has been no development within the race, as among other Slavs. There have been modern overlayings, no doubt; but they are all foreign additions. The Wendish kernel has remained untouched, displaying with remarkable distinctness that peculiarly characteristic feature which runs through all the Slav kindred, at once uniting and separating various tribes, combining a curious unity of substructure with a striking variety of surface. Among the "Serbs," or—"Sorbs"—really "Srbs"—of Germany, occur names which reveal a close kinship with Russians, Bohemians, and Croats. By the strange survival—among two tribes alone in all the world—of a complete dual, and the retention of a distinct preterite tense (without the use of an auxiliary verb) their language links them plainly with the Old Bulgarians. Their national melodies exhibit a marked resemblance to those melancholy airs which charm English visitors in Russia. Yet a Pole,[Pg 149] one of their nearest neighbours, is totally at sea among the Wends. His language is to them almost as unintelligible as that of their "dumb" neighbours on the opposite side, the Njemski—that is, the Germans. Even among themselves the Lusatians are divided in speech. In Lower Lusatia, for instance, where the population are descended from the ancient Lusitschani, if you want to ask a girl for a kiss, you must say: gulitza, daj mi murki. In Upper Lusatia, where dwell the Miltschani, the same request takes the shape of: holitza, daj mi hupkuh. My German friends would have it that to their ears Wendish sounded very like English—which simply meant, that they understood neither the one nor the other. In truth, there is no resemblance whatever between the two tongues, except it be this, that like some of our own people, the Wends are incorrigibly given to putting their H's in the wrong place. The explanation, in respect of the Wends, is, that in their language no word is known to begin with a vowel. Hence, to make German at all pronounceable to their lips, they often have to add an H as initial letter, the impropriety of which addition they happen generally to remember at the wrong time. It will terrify linguists among ourselves to be told that this Slav language—which the Germans despise as barbarous, which has scarcely any literature, and which is spoken by very few men of high education—possesses, in addition to our ordinary verbs, also verbs "neutropassive," "inchoative," "durative," "momentaneous," and "iterative"; an aorist, like Greek, and a preterite aorist of its own; a subjunctive pluperfect, and in declension seven cases, including a "sociative" case, and a "locative." The[Pg 150] most remarkable characteristics of the language, however, are the richness of its vocalisation, and its peculiar flexibility and pliancy, which enable those who speak it to coin new and very expressive words for distinct ideas almost at pleasure, yet open to no misconstruction.
In outward appearance the Wends are throughout a powerful, healthy, and muscular race, whose men are coveted for the conscription. The first Napoleon's famous "Bouchers Saxons"—the Saxon dragoons—were Wends almost to a man. And in the present day, it is the Wends who contribute the lion's share of recruits to the Saxon household regiments. Their women are prized throughout Germany as nurses. They are all well-built, well-shaped, strong of muscle, and nimble in motion, like the Lacedæmonian women of old. All surrounding Germany recruits its nurses from Wendland. Next to stature, the most distinctive external feature of the race is its national dress, which, as in most similar cases, survives longest, and in its most characteristic form, among women. As between different districts, such dress varies very markedly, but throughout it has some common features. Short bright-coloured skirts, with the hips preternaturally enlarged by artificial padding, and an unconscionable amount of starch put into the petticoats on Sundays; close-fitting bodices, under which, in some districts, by an atrocious perversion of taste, are placed bits of stout cardboard, designed to compress a strongly developed bust to hideous flatness; small tight-fitting caps, into which is gathered all the hair, and which are often concealed under some bright-coloured outer head-gear, with an abundance of[Pg 151] ribbons dependent; and a goodly allowance of scrupulously clean collar, frill, and neckerchiefs, at any rate on Sundays; and, on festive occasions, stockings of the same irreproachable whiteness put upon massive calves which on other occasions are worn all bare—these are, briefly put, the main characteristics of the women's dress. Oddly, the Roman Catholics, who elsewhere—in the Black Forest, for instance—affect the gayest colours, among the Wends show a partiality for the soberest of hues, more specifically brown and black. The men delight in big buttons, bright waistcoats, and high boots, long coats which pass on from father to son through generations, and either preternaturally stout hats of prehistoric mould, or else large blue caps with monster shades. Their peculiar customs are simply legion, and so are their traditions and superstitions. Their fairs are a thing to see. Old-fashioned as the Wends are, ordinary shopping has no attraction for them. But the merry fair, with its life and society, its exchange of gossip, its display of finery, its haggling and bargaining, its music and its dancing, is irresistibly alluring. At the great fair at Vetzschau in olden days you might see as many as a thousand Wendish girls, all dressed in their best, formally but merrily going through their Wendish dances in the market-place. In matters of faith the Wends are all great believers in little superstitious formulas and observances, such as not turning a knife or a harrow edge or tine upward, lest the devil should sit down upon it. Their favourite devices for attracting a man's or a maiden's love are a little too artlessly natural to be fit for recital here. One great prevailing superstition is the belief in lucky[Pg 152] stones—kamushkis. Stones, in truth, play a leading part in their traditions. They have a belief that stones went on growing, like plants, till the time of our Saviour's temptation, in the course of which, by an improvement upon the authorised text, they assert that he hurt his foot against one by accident. In punishment for having caused that pain, their growth is understood to have been stopped. They have other stones as well—"fright-stones" and "devil-stones" for instance. But the kamushkis are by far the most important and the most valuable. They are handed on as precious heirlooms from parent to child, and often put down at a high value in the inventory of an estate. The supernatural world of the Wends is as densely peopled as any mythology ever yet heard of. There is the psches-poniza—the noon woman, to avoid whom women in pregnancy and after their confinement dare not go out of doors in the midday hours; there is the smerkava, or "dusk-woman," who is fatal to children, the wichor, or whirlwind; the plon, or dragon, who terrifies, but also brings treasure; the bud, or Will-o'-the-Wisp; the bubak, or bogey; the nocturnal huntsman, nocny hanik; and the nocturnal carman, nocny forman; the murava, or nightmare; the kobod or koblik; the chódota (witch); the buźawosj, who frightens children; the djas, the graby, the schyry źed, the kunkaz, there are spirits "black" and "white." Every mill has its peculiar nykus or nyx, who must be fed and propitiated. And then there are roguish sprites, such as Pumpot, who is a sort of Wendish "barguest," doing kind turns as often as he plays mischievous pranks. All this curious Slav mythology alone is worth studying. If in a family children keep[Pg 153] dying young, the remedy certain to be applied is, to christen the next born "Adam" or "Eve," according to its sex, which is thought absolutely to ensure its life. Like most much-believing races, the Wends are remarkably simple-minded, trustful, leadable, and docile, free from that peculiar cunning and malice which is often charged, rightly or wrongly, to Slav races—not without fault, but in the main a race of whom one grows fond.
To see the Wends ethnographically at their best, you should seek them in their forest homes, all through that vast stretch of more or less pine-clad plain, mostly sand, extending northwards from the last distant spurs of the "Riesengebirge" (which bounds at the same time Bohemia and Silesia), to the utmost limits of their territory in the March of Brandenburg, and much beyond that—or else in that uniquely beautiful Spreewald, some hundred of miles or so south of Berlin, a land of giant forest and water, an archipelago of turfy islets. That is the ancient headquarters of the Wendish nation, still peopled by a peculiar tribe, with peculiar, very quaint dress, with traditions and customs all their own, settled round the venerated site of their old kings' castle. It is all a land of mystic romance, sylvan silence, old-world usages, such as well become the supposed "Sacred Forest" of the ancient "Suevi." Alders and oaks—the former of a size met with nowhere else—cast a dense, black shade over the whole scene, which is in reality but one vast lake, on whose black and torpidly moving waters float wooded kaupes or isles, scattered over which dwell in solitude and practical isolation the toilsome inhabitants, having no means of communication[Pg 154] open to them except the myriads of arms of the sluggishly flowing Spree. A parish covers many square miles. Each little cottage, a picture by itself amid its bold forest surroundings, stands long distances away from its neighbours. The outskirts of the forest consist of wide tracts of wobbling meadow, a floating web of roots and herbage, over which one can scarcely move without sinking into water up to the hips. Were you to tread through, down you would go helplessly into the fathomless black swamp. On those vast meadows grow the heavy crops of sweet nutritious grass which make the Spreewald hay valued at Berlin for its quality as is the hay of the Meuse at Paris. On their little islands, as in the Hortillonages of the Somme, the kaupers raise magnificent crops of vegetables (more particularly cucumbers, without which Berlin would scarcely be itself), which, as on the Somme, they are constrained to carry to market by boat. Boats and skates, in fact, supply in that wooded Holland the only means of locomotion. And thanks to its canals and its water, all in it is so fresh, and so luxuriant, and so remarkably silent, that, while one is there, there seems no place like the Spreewald in which to be thoroughly alone with Nature. On a mound artificially raised upon one of these islands, at Burg, once stood the castle of the great Wendish kings, whose sceptre is supposed still to descend in secret from sire to son in a particular family, known only to the best initiated of Wends. To this country more specifically, together with some scores of distinctive water sprites (each endowed with its own attribute), does Wendish mythology owe its numerous legends about snakes wearing precious crowns,[Pg 155] which on occasion they will carelessly lay down on the grass, where, if luck should lead you that way, you may seize them and so ensure to yourself untold riches—provided that you can manage to get safely away.
In the mountainous country about Bautzen and Loebau in Saxony, where the scenery is fine, the air bracing, the soil mostly fat, nineteenth century levelling has been far too long at work for race customs to have maintained themselves altogether pure. There stand the ancient sacrificing places of the Wends, the Czorneboh, sacred to the "black god," the Bjeliboh, sacred to the "white" one—respectively, the Mounts Ebal and Gerizim of Wendland—and many more. Wendish traditions and Wendish speech are still very rife in those parts. And most of the brains of the race are to be found in that well-cultivated district—the "Wendish Mozart," Immisch, Hornigk, Pfuhl—all the literary coryphæi of the race. From Bautzen, certainly, with its bipartite cathedral, in which Roman Catholics and Protestants worship peaceably side by side, divided only by a grating, it is quite impossible to dissociate Wendish traditions. That is to the Upper Lusatians what Cottbus is to the lower—mjesto, "the town" par excellence. There are very true Wends in those regions still. In a village near Hochkirch the community managed for a long time successfully to keep out Germans, refusing to sell any property otherwise than to a Wend. But under the influence of advancing civilisation so many things externally peculiar to the race have disappeared—their forests, and their wooden buildings, much of their ancient dress; they live so much in the great world, that they can scarcely[Pg 156] be said to have kept up their peculiar race-life in absolute purity.
In the forest, on the other hand, where, in fact, dwell the bulk of the not yet denationalised race, you still see Wends as they were many centuries ago. It is a curious country, that easternmost stretch of what once was the great forest of Miriquidi, almost touching Bautzen and Görlitz with its southernmost fringe, and extending northward far into the March of Brandenburg. At first glance you would take it to be intolerably prosaic. It spreads out at a dead level, flat as a rink, for miles and miles away, far as the eye can see, with nothing to break the straight sky-line—except it be clouds of dust whirled up by the wind from the powdery surface of this German Sahara. The villages lie far apart, divided by huge stretches of dark pine forest, much of it well-grown, not a little, however, crippled and stunted. The roads are, often, mere tracks of bottomless sand, along which toils the heavy coach at a foot pace, drawn by three horses at least, and shaking the passengers inside to bits by its rough motion across gnarled pine-roots which in the dry sand will never rot. But look at it a little more closely, and you will find a peculiar kind of wild romance resting upon it. If you take the trouble to inquire, you will find that all this forest is peopled with elves. There are stories and legends and superstitions attaching to almost every point. Hid away among it are the sites of ancient Wendish villages—you may see where stood the houses, you may trace where were the ridged fields, you may feel, Wends will have it, by a creeping sensation coming over you as you pass, where were[Pg 157] the ancient grave-yards. Here is an ancient haunted Celtic barrow. There is a cave in which are supposed to meet, at certain uncanny hours, the ghosts of cruel Swedish invaders, barbarously murdered in self-defence, or else Wendish warriors of much older time. Yonder, again, is a mound beneath which lies a treasure. Here "spooks" this spirit, there his fellow. By the Wends the forest is regarded with peculiar awe. It is to them a personality, almost a deity, exacting, as they will have it, every year at least one victim as a tribute or sacrifice. Every now and then you will come upon a heap of dry branches, on which you may observe that every passer-by religiously lays an additional stick. That is a "dead man," a Wendish "cairn," raised up in memory of some person who on that spot lost his life. Between the forest and dry fields picturesquely stretch out sheets of water, some of them of large size. And where there is water, the scenery at once assumes a hue of freshness and verdure which is most relieving. Dull and bare as this country generally is, no Switzer loves his own beautiful mountain home more fervently, or admires it with greater appreciation, than do the Wends their native patch of sand and peat and forest; nor does he miss it, when away, with more painful home-sickness.
In this flat tract of land you may see the German Slavs still living in their traditional timber or clay-and-wattle houses, built in the orthodox Wendish style—with a little round-roofed oven in front, and a draw-well surmounted by a tall slanting beam, with a little garden, the Ausgedinge-haus for the pensioned-off late proprietor, the curious barge-board, ornamented at[Pg 158] either end with some crudely fantastical carving (which was borrowed more than a thousand years ago from the early Saxons), and with that most characteristic mark of all, the heavy arched beam overshadowing the low windows. The house would be thatched, but that the Prussian government absolutely forbids thatch for new roofing. The entire settlement is laid out on the old nomad plan, reminding one of times when for security villagers had to dwell close together. In the middle of the village is the broad street or green, planted with high trees, which, by their contrast with the surrounding pine forest, indicate the site to the traveller a long way off. The Wends are devoted lovers of trees, and in every truly Wendish village you are sure to find a large lime tree, tall or stunted, but in every case spreading out its branches a long distance sideways, and overshadowing a goodly space. That tree has for generations back formed the centre of local life, and is venerated as becomes a "sacred tree" of ancient date. Here young and old are wont to assemble. Here, on Saturday afternoons in spring-time, gather the young girls to blend their tuneful voices in sacred song heralding the advent of Easter. Here used to meet the village council—which has in recent times, for reasons of practical convenience, removed to the public-house—the gromada, or hromada, summoned by means of a kokula or hejka, that is, a "crooked stick" or a hammer, sent round from house to house. Every householder, large or small, has a right to be present and to take his full part in the proceedings; for the Wends are no respecters of persons. In the centre sits the šolta, as president, supported by his "sidesmen," the[Pg 159] starski. And there are discussed the affairs of the little community, heavily and solemnly at first, but with increasing animation as the pálenza, or schnaps, gets into people's heads. The most interesting by far of these periodical meetings is the gromada hoklapnica—the "gromada of brawls," that is—which is held in most villages on St. Thomas' Day, in some on Epiphany Day, to transact, with much pomp and circumstance, the business which has reference to the whole year. The annual accounts are there settled. New members are received into the commune, and if any have married, the Wendish marriage tax is levied upon them. If there are any paupers in the parish, they are at that meeting billeted in regular succession upon parishioners. Another important matter to settle is the institution of paid parish officers, none of whom are appointed for more than a year at a time. Watchman, field-guard, blacksmith, road-mender, &c., all are expected to attend, cap in hand, making their obeisance as before a Czar, thanking the gromada for past favours, which have secured them infinitesimal pay, and humbly supplicating for new, which are, as a rule, granted with a rather pompous and condescending grace.
The village homesteads line the common or street on either side, standing gable outwards, as every Wendish house ought to stand. From them radiate in long narrow strips the fields, as originally divided, when the settlers were still a semi-nomad race, when each member was scrupulously assigned his own share of loam, clay, high land, low land, peat, sand, meadow—not only in order that none might be better off than his neighbour, but also that the workers in the fields might at all[Pg 160] times make sure of fellowship, to lighten their toil by chat and song, and by taking their meals in company. During the whole of their history the Wends have shown themselves devoted to agriculture. Their social system was based upon agriculture; agriculture occupied their thoughts. Their legends represent their ancient kings, and the saints of their hagiology, as engaged in agriculture. And their girls, thinking of marriage, may be heard to sing:
"No, such a suitor I will not have
Who writeth with a pen;
The husband for me is the man
Who plougheth with the plough."
By intuitive instinct the Wends prefer cultivating light land, whereas the Germans give the preference to strong. All their implements seem made for light soil. Such are their wooden spades, tastefully edged with steel which, though not perhaps as useful as our all-steel implements, look incomparably more picturesque. And from light soil the Wends know better than any race how to raise remunerative crops. They understand heavy land, too—as witness their excellent tillage in Upper Lusatia, and above all in that German "Land of Goshen," the Duchy of Altenburg. But on sand they are most at home. And in the poorest districts you may make sure that wherever you see a particularly fine patch of corn, or potatoes, or millet, or buckwheat, that patch is peasant's land.
The church, as a rule, is placed right in the middle of the village. The Wends value their church. For all their stubborn paganism in early days, against which[Pg 161] St. Columban, and St. Emmeran, and St. Rupert and St. Eckbert all contended in vain, the Wends have, since they were christianized, always been a devoutly religious people, and at present—barring a little drinking and a little stealing (which latter, however, is strictly confined to fruit and timber, in respect of which two commodities they hold communistic opinions)—they are exemplary Christians. With their parsons they do not always stand on the best of terms. But that is because some of the parsons, raised from peasant rank, are, or were—for things have altered by the introduction of fixed stipends—a little exacting in the matter of tithes and offerings, and the demand that there should be many sponsors at a christening, for the sake of the fees. There are some queer characters among that forest-clergy. One that I knew was a good deal given to second-hand dealing. He attended every sale within an accessible radius, to bring home a couch, or a whip, or a pair of pole-chains, or a horse-cloth, for re-sale. His vicarage was in truth a recognised second-hand goods store, in which every piece of furniture kept continually changing. Another was greedy enough to claim a seat at the Squire's table, at the great dinners given in connection with the annual battues, as a matter of "prescription." A third drank so hard that on one occasion he had to be propped up against the altar to enable him to go on with the service. The most curious of all was the "chaplain" of Muskau, who married his couples wholesale, on the Manchester "sort yourselves" principle. Sometimes, when things went a little slowly, and he grew impatient, it was he who "sorted" the couples, and then occasionally it would happen that, giving the word of [Pg 162]command like a Prussian corporal, he would "sort" them wrongly. They were far too well drilled to discipline not to obey. But when the ceremony was over they would lag sheepishly behind, scratching their heads and saying: "Knès duchowny, I should have married that girl, and this girl should have married him." However, the Church had spoken, and the cause was finished. Married they were and married they must remain. Even to this the patient Wends submitted; and, perhaps, they were all the happier for it.
But all this has nothing to do with the Church proper, as distinct from the parson. Their religious instinct appears born with the Wends. Religion seems to be in all their thoughts and most of their acts. The invariable greeting given is "God be with you." They talk habitually of "God's rain," "God's sun," "God's crops," "God's bread"—to them "every good gift and every perfect gift cometh from above." Worshippers returning from church are hailed with a "Welcome from God's Word." When the sun goes down, it is to "God" that it goes to rest. Whenever a bargain is struck, the appeal to the other party is "God has seen it," or "God has heard it." And although German jurisdiction, with its partiality for oaths slily extracted after a statement, has imported here and there a little false swearing, in the main that ancient confirmation of the contract is still respected. In Wendland the churches are filled as nowhere else in Germany, and however prosily the parson may preach—as he generally does—nowhere is he more attentively and devoutly listened to. In Wendland alone of all Germany have I noticed that Protestants[Pg 163] bow at the mention of the name of "Jesus." Barring some ten thousand Roman Catholics in Saxony, the Wends are all staunch Protestants of that nondescript Lutheran-Calvinist creed, which the kings of Prussia have imposed upon their country. But not a few of their beliefs and superstitions and legends hark back to older days. They still keep Corpus Christi. In their religious legends, which are of very ancient origin, the Virgin plays a prominent part—leading off, among other things, a nocturnal dance, in which the angels all join, clad in silken gowns with green wreaths on their heads, meeting for the purpose, of all unsuitable places, in the church, and carefully locking the door against human intruders. The Virgin's flight into Egypt is put into strongly agricultural language, "Has a woman with a child passed this way?" ask Herod's ruthless emissaries. "Aye," answers the truthful Wend, "while I was sowing this barley." "You fool, that must have been three months ago." In truth, by a miracle the barley has grown to maturity in one brief hour. By this expedient the Virgin escapes. The Virgin spins; the Virgin sews shirts; the Virgin does all that Wendish women are taught to do. In Scripture-lore the Wends have their own localised versions of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah; of the fight of St. George and the Dragon; and an even more localised tale of the doings of King David. The archangel Michael is made to fight for Budyssin against the Germans. Judas Iscariot, according to their national tradition, comes to grief mainly through gambling. The Saviour gave him thirty pieces of silver to buy bread with. These he staked—tempted by Jews whom[Pg 164] he saw gambling by the wayside—on an unlucky card; and to recover them it was that he sold his Master. To cap all this unorthodoxy, the Wends make the Creator call after Judas that he is forgiven. But remorse drives him to hang himself, notwithstanding. He tries a pine and a fir, but finds them too soft, so he selects an aspen tree—hence the perpetual agitation of its leaves. One of their peculiar legendary saints is Diter Thomas, who was so holy that he could hang his clothes when going to bed—which he appears to have done in the daytime—on a sunbeam. One day, however, at church this devout man espied the Devil seated behind the altar, engaged in taking down on a fresh cowhide the names of all whom he saw sleeping in church. There must have been an unusually large number, for the cowhide proved too small, and Satan was fain to stretch it by holding one end with his teeth and pulling at the other with his hands. As it happened, his teeth let go, and back went his head against the wall, with a bang which woke up all the sleepers. This aroused in pious Thomas so much mirth that he forgot the respect due to the holy place, and laughed aloud—in punishment for which offence his grace departed from him, and he was thenceforth reduced to the necessity of using pegs. For their regularity in attendance at church I half suspect that the peculiar fondness of the Wends for singing is, in not a small degree, accountable; and, it may be, also the attraction of a little gossip after service, and the excitement of an occasional little fair.
The Wends would indeed not be Slavs if they were not engrossingly fond of singing. Singing is, in fact, among young folk reckoned the principal accomplishment.[Pg 165] And they have a rich store of songs, set to exceedingly melodious airs. They have them of all descriptions—legends and convivial songs, martial songs, sacred hymns, short rónčka and reje for the dancing-room, and long elegies and ballads for the field, to shorten the long summer's day out at work. They have their own curious instruments, too, still in use—a three-stringed fiddle, a peculiar sort of hautboy, and bagpipes of two different sizes, the larger one invariably ornamented with a goat's head. To be a kantorka (precentress) in church, or even in a spinning-room, is a thing for a Wendish girl to be proud of, and to remember to her old age. What a Wendish village would in winter time be without those social spinning meetings it is difficult to imagine. To no race do conviviality, mirth, harmless but boisterous amusement, seem so much of a necessary of life. And none appears to be so thoroughly devoted to the practice of homely household virtues. Spinning, poultry-breeding, bee-keeping, gardening, coupled with singing, and nursing children, and making model housewives—these are the things which occupy girls' thoughts. At her very christening the baby-girl, borne back from church "as a Christian," is made to find a spindle and a broom carefully laid in the room, to act as charms in setting her infant thoughts in the right direction. Her "sponsor's letter" is sure to contain some symbolic grains of flax and millet. And a lover's principal gift to his sweetheart invariably consists of a carefully turned and brightly-painted "kriebatsche," an antiquated spindle and distaff that is, which is held dear as a family Bible. Spinning, indeed, is among Wends a[Pg 166] far more important occupation than elsewhere. For men and women alike wear by preference linen clothes, made of good, stout, substantial stuff, thick enough to keep out the cold. In rural Germany a peasant girl is expected as an indispensable preparative for marriage to knit her "tally" of stockings. In Wendland the trousseau consists all of spun linen. Servants invariably receive part of their wages in flax. Spinning accordingly is about the most important work to be accomplished in a household. And as it lends itself capitally to sociability and mirth, the Wendish maidens take to it with peculiar zest. The date for beginning these gatherings throughout Lusatia is the 11th of October, St. Burkhard's Day in the Wendish calendar. On that day the young unmarried women tell themselves off into pšazas, that is, spinning companies, consisting of twelve at the outside, all of them girls of unblemished character. Among no race on earth is purity more valued and insisted upon—in both sexes—than among these poor forest Wends. Wherever corruption has crept in, it is wholly due to the evil seductions of Germans, who have taken advantage of the helplessness of Wendish girls when away on service. In a Wendish village, to have made a faux pas deprives a young fellow and girl alike of their character for life. The girl must not sit with the other girls in church when the young are catechised; she must not walk up to the altar on high festivals; she must not join in the singing; and the spinning companies will not have her. In olden time she was not even allowed to dance. Young men going notoriously astray used to be punished in their own way.
Some time before the eventful eleventh, the pšazas[Pg 167] assemble to decide in whose house the spinning gatherings are to be held. In that house they meet throughout the winter, spinning industriously with wheel or with spindle from seven to ten, and requiting the housewife for her hospitality with welcome assistance in various kinds of domestic work. On the first evening the company quite expect to be treated to a good supper of roast goose. How all the spinners, with the resident family, and those young fellows who, of course, will from time to time pay the lasses a visit—either in disguise or in their own proper garb—manage to meet, and work, and lark, and dance, where they do, it is rather a problem to solve. For many of the rooms are not large. They are plain, of course, in their equipment, like all Wendish rooms (in which paint is allowed only on chairs, all the other woodwork being subject to the scrubbing-brush), but strikingly peculiar. Almost in one corner—but far enough away from the wall to leave space for a little, cosy nook behind—stands the monster tile stove, very adequately heated with peat or wood, and showing, tolerably high up, a little open fireplace, in which burns a bright little wood fire, rather to give light and look cheerful, than to diffuse warmth. That is the vestal hearth of the Wendish house, without which there would be no home. In another corner stands the solid, large deal table, with painted chairs all round. The walls are all wainscoted with deal boards; and round the whole room runs a narrow bench, similar to the murka, a seat far more tempting, which encircles the stove. Nearly all the household implements in use are neatly ranged about the walls, or else placed on the floor—the boberzge,[Pg 168] a peculiar plate rack; the polca, to hold pots and spoons; and the štanda, for water. There are baskets, cans, tubs disposed about, and a towel hung up for show. This room grows tolerably lively when the spinning company assemble, telling their tales, playing their games, gossiping and chatting, but mostly singing. "Shall we have any new songs?" is the first question invariably asked when the pšaza constitutes itself. And if there is a new girl come into the village, the inquiry at once passes round, "Does she know any new songs?" Indeed, the pšazas serve as the principal singing classes for the young women in the village. They are kept up throughout the year as special choirs and sub-choirs, so to speak, singing together on all sacred and mundane occasions where singing is required. Whenever "the boys" look in, there is great fun. Sometimes one will dress up as a "bear," in a "skin" made up of buckwheat straw; or else he will march in as a "stork," which causes even greater amusement. Once at least in the season the funny man of the set makes his appearance transformed into what, by a very wild flight of imagination, may be taken for a pantomime horseman, with a horse made up of four big sieves, hung over with a white sheet. Before calling in a real, formal way, the boys are always careful to ask for leave, which means that they will bring piwo and pálenza (beer and spirits), the girls revenging themselves by providing cake and coffee; and then the entertainment will wind up with a merry dance. One very amusing occasion is the dopalowak, or dolamowak, that is, the last spinning evening before Christmas, when the boys sit in judgment upon the girls, and, should they find[Pg 169] one or other to be guilty of idleness, condemn her to have her flax burnt or else her spindle broken, which penalties are, of course, in every case commuted into a fine. This sort of thing goes on till Ash Wednesday, when the "Spinte" is formally executed by stabbing, an office which gives fresh scope to the facetiousness and agility of the funny man. The night before is the social evening par excellence. It is called čorny wečor, "the black evening," because girls and boys alike amuse themselves with blackening their faces like chimney-sweeps, and with the very same material. The boys are allowed to take off the girls' caps and let down their hair—the one occasion on which it is permitted to hang loose. And there is rare merrymaking throughout the night. Indeed, all Shrovetide is kept with becoming spirit, perhaps more boisterously than among any other folk, and in true excitable Slav style. The boys go about a-"zampering," and collecting contributions; the girls bring out their little savings; and then the young people dance their fill, keeping it up throughout Lent. Indeed, they dance pretty well all the year round—
"Njemski rady rejwam,
Serski hišće radsjo;"
which may be rendered thus:
"The German way I love to dance,
But the Wendish dance I dote on."
To witness the serska reja—the only truly national dance preserved among the Wends—at its best, you should see it danced on some festive occasion, when the blood is up, out in the open air, on the grass plot,[Pg 170] where stands the sacred lime tree. There is plenty of room there. The very sight of the green—say of the young birches planted around for decoration at Whitsuntide or Midsummer—seems to fire the susceptible spirits. The dancers throw themselves into the performance with a degree of vigour and energy of which we Teutons have no notion. The serska reja is a pantomimic dance. Each couple has its own turn of leading. The cavalier places his partner in front of him, facing her, and while the band keeps playing, and the company singing one of those peculiarly stirring Wendish dance tunes, he sets about adjuring her to grant him his desire, and dance with him. She stands stock still, her arms hanging down flop by her side. The cavalier capers about, shouts, strikes his hands against his thighs, kneels, touches his heart—with the more dramatic force the better. At length the lady gives way, and in token of consent raises her hand. Briskly do the two spin round now for the space of eight bars, after which for eight more they perform something like a cross between a chassez croisez and a jig, and so on for a little while, after which the whole company join in the same performance. As a finish the cavalier "stands" the band and his partner some liquor, and a merry round dance concludes his turn of leading, to the accompaniment of a tune and song, rónčka, selected by himself.
Lent is a season more particularly consecrated to song. Every Saturday afternoon, and on some other days, the girls of the various pšazas assemble under the village lime tree, the seat around which is scrupulously reserved for them, to sing, amid the rapt attention[Pg 171] of the whole village, some of their delightful sacred songs peculiar to the season. This singing reaches its climax on Easter night, when young fellows and girls march round the village in company, warbling in front of every door, in return for which they receive some refreshment. For a brief time only do they suspend their music to fetch "Easter water" from the brook, which must be done in perfect silence, and accordingly sets every mischief-maker at work, teasing and splashing, and playing all sorts of practical jokes, in order to extract a word of protest from the water-fetching maidens. As the clock strikes midnight the young women form in procession and march out to the fields, and all round the cultivated area, singing Easter hymns till sunrise. It produces a peculiarly striking effect to hear all this solemn singing—maybe, the same tunes ringing across from an adjoining parish, as if echoed back by the woods—and to see those tall forms solemnly moving about in the early gloaming, like ancient priestesses of the Goddess Ostara. While the girls are singing, the bell-ringers repair to the belfry (which in many villages stands beside the church) to greet the Easter sun with the traditional "Dreischlag," the "three-stroke," intended to indicate the Trinity.
Lent sees the Wends perform another curious rite, of peculiar antiquarian interest. The fourth Sunday in Lent is by established custom set apart for the ceremony of "driving out Death"—in the shape of a straw figure decked out with the last bridal veil used, which the bride is expected to give up for the purpose. This poor figure is stoned to destruction to the cry of Leč hořè, leč hořè, which may be borrowed from the Lutheran name for[Pg 172] the Sunday in question, Laetare. In some places the puppet is seated in a bower of pine boughs, and so carried about amid much infantine merriment, to be ultimately burnt or drowned. The interesting feature of this rite is, that it does not really represent the Teuton "expulsion of winter" so much as the much older ceremony of piously visiting the site on which in Pagan times bodies used to be burnt after death. It is a heathen All Saints' Day.
I have no space here to refer to anything like all the curious Wendish observances which ought to be of interest to folk-lorists: the lively kokot, or harvest home, so called because under the last sheaf it was usual to conceal a cock, kokota lapać with legs and wings bound, which fell to the lot of the reaper who found it; the lobetanz; the kermuša, or kirmess, great and small, the merry children's feast on May Day; the joyful observance of Whit Sunday and Midsummer; the peculiar children's games, and so on. It is all so racy and peculiar, all so merry and yet so modest in the expenditure made upon it, it all shows the Wends so much to advantage as a contented, happy, cheerful people—perhaps a little thoughtless, but in any case making the best of things under all circumstances, and glad to show off their Slav finery, and throw themselves into whatever enjoyment Providence has vouchsafed, with a zest and spirit which is not to be excelled, and which I for one should be sorry to see replaced by the more decorous, perhaps, but far less picturesque hilarity of the prosy Prussians. If only the Wends did not consume such unconscionable quantities of bad liquor! And if in their cups they did not fall a-quarrelling quite so fiercely! It is[Pg 173] all very well to say, as they do in one of their proverbs, with truthful pithiness, that "there is not a drop of spirit on which do not hang nine devils." But their practice accords ill with this proverbial wisdom. The public-house is to them the centre of social life. Every new-comer is formally introduced and made to shake hands with the landlord. They have a good deal of tavern etiquette which is rigidly adhered to, and the object of which in all cases is, like George the Fourth's "whitewash," to squeeze an additional glass of liquor into the day's allowance. Thus every guest is entitled to a help from the landlord's jug, but in return, from every glass served is the landlord entitled to the first sip. Thus again, after a night's carousal, the guests always expect to be treated by the host to a free liquor round, which is styled the Swaty Jan—that is, the Saint John—meaning "the Evangelist," whose name is taken in vain because he is said to have drunk out of a poisoned cup without hurt. All the invocation in the world of the Saint will not, however, it is to be feared, make the wretched pálenza of the Wends—raw potato fusel—innocuous. It is true, their throats will stand a good deal. By way of experiment, I once gave an old woman a glass of raw spirit as it issued from the still, indicating about 82 per cent. of alcohol. She made a face certainly, but it did not hurt her; and she would without much coaxing have taken another glass.
This article has already grown so long that of the many interesting customs connected with the burial of the dead and the honouring of their memory I can only refer to one very peculiar and picturesque rite. Having taken the dying man out of his bed, and placed[Pg 174] him (for economy) on straw (which is afterwards burnt) to die, put him in his coffin, with whatever he is supposed to love best, to make him comfortable—and in addition a few bugs, to clear the house of them—the mourners carry him out of the house, taking care to bump him on the high threshold, and in due course the coffin is rested for part of the funeral service in front of the parsonage or the church. In providing for the comfort of the dead the survivors show themselves remarkably thoughtful. No male Wend is buried without his pipe, no married female without her bridal dress. Children are given toys, and eggs, and apples. Money used to be put into the coffin, but people found that it got stolen. So now the practice is restricted to the very few Jews who are to be found among the Wends and who, it is thought, cannot possibly be happy without money; and, with a degree of consideration which to some people will appear excessive, some stones are added, in order that they may have them "to throw at the Saviour." In front of the church or parsonage the coffin is once more opened, and the mourners, all clad in white—which is the Wendish colour for mourning—are invited to have a last look at the body. Then follows the Dobra noć, a quaint and strictly racial ceremony. The nearest relative of the dead, a young person, putting a dense white veil over his or her head and body, is placed at the back of the coffin, and from that place in brief words answers on behalf of the dead such questions as affection may prompt near friends and relatives to put. That done, the whole company join in the melodious Dobra noć—wishing the dead one last "Good-night." After that, the lid is once more[Pg 175] screwed down and the coffin is lowered into the grave.
There are few things more picturesque, I ought to say, than a funeral procession in the Spreewald, made up of boats gliding noiselessly along one of those dark forest canals, having the coffin hung with white, and all the mourners dressed in the same colour, the women wearing the regulation white handkerchief across their mouths. The gloom around is not the half-night of Styx; but the thought of Charon and his boat instinctively occurs to one. The whole seems rather like a melancholy vision, or dream, than a reality.
Hard pressed as I am for space, I must find some to say, at any rate, just a few words about Wendish marriage customs. For its gaiety, and noise, and lavish hospitality, and protracted merriment, its finery and its curious ways, the Wendish wedding has become proverbial throughout Germany. Were I to detail all its quaint little touches, all its peculiar observances, each one pregnant with peculiar mystic meaning, all its humours and all its fun, I should have to give it an article by itself. It is a curious mixture of ancient and modern superstition and Christianity, diplomacy and warfare. The bride is still ostensibly carried off by force. Only a short time ago the bridegroom and his men were required to wear swords in token of warfare and conquest. But all the formal negotiation is done by diplomacy—very cautiously, very carefully, as if one were feeling his way. First comes an old woman, the schotta, to clear the ground. After that the druzba, the best man, appears on the scene—to inquire about pigs, or buckwheat, or millet, or whatever it may be, and incidentally also about the lovely Hilžička, whom his[Pg 176] friend Janko is rather thinking of paying his addresses to—the fact being all the while that long since Janko and Hilžička have, on the sly, arranged between themselves that they are to be man and wife. But observe that in Wendland girls may propose as well as men; and that the bridegroom, like the bride, wears his "little wreath of rue"—if he be an honest man, in token of his virtue. The girl and her parents visit the suitor's house quite unexpectedly. And there and then only does the young lady openly decide. If she sits down in the house, that means "Yes." And forthwith preparations are busily set on foot. Custom requires that the bride should give up dancing and gaiety and all that, leave off wearing red, and stitch away at her trousseau, while her parents kill the fatted calf. Starve themselves as they will at other times, at a wedding they must be liberal like parvenus. Towards this hospitality, it is true, their friends and neighbours contribute, sending butter and milk, and the like, just before the wedding, as well as making presents of money and other articles to the young people at the feast itself. But we have not yet got to that by a long way. The young man, too, has his preparations to make. He has to send out the braška, the "bidder," in his gay dress, to deliver invitations. How people would stare in this country, were they to see a braška making his rounds, with a wreath on his hat, one or two coloured handkerchiefs dangling showily from different parts of his coat, besides any quantity of gay ribbons and tinsel, and a herald's staff covered with diminutive bunting! Then there are the banns to be published, and on the Sunday of the second time of asking, the bride and[Pg 177] bridegroom alike are expected to attend the Holy Communion, and afterwards to go through a regular examination—in Bible, in Catechism, in reading—at the hands of the parson. By preference the latter makes them read aloud the seventh chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians. At the wedding itself, the ceremonial is so complicated that the braška, the master of ceremonies, has to be specially trained for his duties. There is a little farce first at the bride's house. The family pretend to know nothing of what is coming; their doors and windows are all closely barred, and the braška is made to knock a long time before the door is cautiously opened, with a gruff greeting which bids him go away and not trouble peaceable folk. His demand for "a little shelter" is only granted after much further parleying and incredulous inquiry about the respectability of the intruding persons. When the bride is asked for, an old woman is produced in her stead, next a little girl, then one or two wrong persons more, till at last the true bride is brought forth in all the splendour of a costume to which it is scarcely possible to do justice in writing. As much cloth as will make up four ordinary gowns is folded into one huge skirt. On the bride's neck hangs all conceivable finery of pearls, and ribbons, and necklaces, and strings of silver coins—as much, in fact, as the neck will carry. There is any amount of starched frilling and collar above the shoulders; a close-fitting, blue silk bodice below; and a high cap, something like a conjuror's—the borta, or bride's cap—upon her head. Even her stockings are not of the ordinary make, but knitted particularly large so as to have to be laid in folds. The[Pg 178] wedding party, driving off to church, preceded by at least six outriders, make as big a clatter as pistol-firing, singing, shouting, thumping with sticks, and discordant trumpeting will produce. On the road, and in church, a number of little observances are prescribed. At the feast the bride, like the bridegroom, has her male attendants, swats, whose duty it is, above all things, to dance with her, should she want a partner. For this is the last day of her dancing for life, except on Shrove Tuesdays, and, in some Prussian parishes, by express order of the Government, on the Emperor's birthday and the anniversary of Sedan. The bridegroom, on the other hand, must not dance at the wedding, though he may afterwards. Like the bride, he has his own sƚonka—his "old lady," that is—to serve him as guide, philosopher and friend. Hospitality flows in unstinted streams. Sometimes as many as two hundred persons sit down to the meals, and keep it up, eating, drinking and dancing, for three days at least, sometimes for a whole week at a stretch. It would be a gross breach of etiquette to leave anything of the large portions served out on the table. Whatever cannot be eaten must be carried home. Hence those waterproof pockets of phenomenal size which, in olden days, Wendish parsons used to wear under their long coat-tails, and into which, at gentlemen's houses, they used to deposit a goodly store of sundry meats, poultry, pudding and méringues, to be finally christened—surreptitiously, of course—with rather incongruous affusions of gravy or soup, administered by the mischievous young gentlemen of "the House," for the benefit of Frau Pastorin and her children at home. Sunday and Tuesday are favourite[Pg 179] days for a wedding. Thursday is rigorously avoided. For two days the company feast at the bride's house. Taking her to bed on the first night is a peculiar ceremony. The young girls crowd around her in a close circle, and refuse to let her go. The young lads do the same by the bridegroom. When, at last, the two force an exit, they are formally received into similar circles of married men and women severally. The bride is bereft of her borta, and receives a čjepc, a married woman's cap, in its place. After some more hocuspocus, the two are accompanied severally by the braška and the bride's sƚonka into the bridal chamber, the bride protesting all the time that she is "not yet her bridegroom's wife." The braška serves as valet to the bridegroom, the sƚonka undresses the bride. Then the braška formally blesses the marriage-bed, and out walk the two attendants to leave the young folk by themselves. Next morning the bride appears as "wife," looking very demure, in a married woman's garb. On that day the presents are given, amid many jokes—especially when it comes to a cradle, or a baby's bath—from the braška and the zwada—the latter a sort of clown specially retained to amuse the bride, who is expected to be terribly sad throughout. The sadder she is at the wedding, the merrier, it is said, will she be in married life. There is any amount of rather rough fun. On the third day, the company adjourn to the house of the bridegroom's parents, where, according to an ancient custom, the bride ought to go at once into the cowhouse, and upset a can of water, "for luck." After that she is made to sit down to a meal, her husband standing by, and waiting upon[Pg 180] her. That accomplished, she should carry a portion of meat to the poorest person in the village. A week later, the young couple visit the bride's parents, and have a "young wedding" en famille.
I have said enough, I hope, to shew what an interestingly childlike, happily disposed, curious and contented race those few surviving Wends are. And they are so peaceful and loyal. Russian and Bohemian Pan-slavists have tried all their blandishments upon them, to rouse them up to an anti-German agitation. In 1866 the Czar, besides dispensing decorations, sent 63 cwts. of inflammatory literature among them. It was all to no purpose. Surely these quiet, harmless folk, fathers as they are of the North German race, might have been spared that uncalled-for nagging and worrying which has often been pointed against them from Berlin for purely political purposes! In the day of their power they were more tolerant of Germanism. They fought side by side with the Franks, fought even under Frankish chieftains. Germany owes them a debt, and should at least, as it may be hoped that she now will, let them die in peace. Death no doubt is bound to come. It cannot be averted. But it is a death which one may well view with regret. For with the Wends will die a faithfully preserved specimen of very ancient Slav life, quite unique in its way, as interesting a piece of history, archæology and folk-lore as ever was met with on the face of the globe.
One can scarcely help wondering that among all the books written about Voltaire and his varied experiences, there should be practically not one which treats of that brief but eventful period during which, in company with the "sublime Emilie," the great writer found himself the guest of hospitable King Stanislas—"le philosophe-roi chez le roi-philosophe." To Voltaire himself that was one of the most memorable episodes in his long and changeful life. It left on his mind memories which lasted till death. He showed this when, in 1757, looking about him for a peaceful haven of rest, he fixed his eyes once more, as if instinctively, upon Lunéville as a place in which to spend the evening of his days. Stanislas would have been only too thankful to receive him. Old and feeble, rapidly growing blind and helpless, and reduced by ill-health and the[Pg 182] desertion of his Court to the poor resource of playing tric-trac—backgammon—in his lonely afternoons, with such uncourtly bourgeois as his messengers could pick up in the town, the fainéant Duke would have hailed Voltaire's presence, as he himself says, as a godsend. However, the philosophe was once more out of favour with Louis XV. Accordingly, the permission was withheld, and the royal father-in-law found himself denied the small solace which surely he might have looked for at the hand of his daughter's husband.
The biographical neglect of Voltaire's stay in Lorraine appears all the more surprising since in Lorraine, almost alone of Voltaire's favourite haunts, are there visible memorials left of his sojourn. Nowhere else is anything preserved that could recall Voltaire. In Lorraine dragoons and piou-pious now tramp where in his day courtiers sauntered, and nursemaids lounge where the first wits of the century made the air ring with their bon-mots. Still, the stone buildings, at any rate, of Lunéville and Commercy have been allowed to stand, and French destructiveness has spared some of the flower-beds that delighted Voltaire. In that pretty "Bosquet" of Lunéville you may walk where Voltaire trod, where he rallied Madame de Boufflers on her "Magdalen's tears," where Saint Lambert made sly appointments with Madame du Châtelet—and with not a few other ladies as well. In the Palace you may step into the upper room where Voltaire lived and wrote, and fought out his battles with the bigot Alliot. You may walk into "le petit appartement de la reine," on the ground-floor, which Stanislas good-naturedly gave up to Madame du Châtelet for her confinement—and[Pg 183] her death. There it was that those impassioned scenes occurred of which every biographer of Voltaire speaks, and there that the Marchioness's ring was found to tell the mortifying tale of her unfaithfulness to her most devoted lover. You may walk through that side-door through which, dazed with grief, the stupefied philosopher stumbled; and sit on the low stone-step—one of a short flight facing the town—on which he dropped in helpless despair, "knocking his head against the pavement." In that hideously rococo church, tawdrily gay with gew-gaw ornament, you may stand by the black marble slab, still bare of any inscription, below which rest, rudely disturbed by the rough mobs-men of the first Revolution, the decayed bones of the sublime but faithless Emilie.
Barring his rather unnecessary grief over the threatened production of a travestied Semiramis, there were for Voltaire no happier two years than those which saw him, with one or two interruptions, King Stanislas' guest. And to Stanislas, eager as he was to attach the great writer to his bright little court, there could have been no more welcome rigour than that which, at his daughter's instance, drove the leading spirit of the age into temporary exile. Voltaire had paid his court a little too openly to the powerful favourite. After that cavagnole scandal at Fontainebleau, neither he nor Madame du Châtelet stood for the time in the best of odours at Court. Therefore, it probably required little persuasion on the part of the two royal princesses, prompted by their revengeful mother, to prevail upon Louis XV. in that one little square-rod of hallowed ground, over which the power of the mighty[Pg 184] Circe did not extend, their nursery, to decree the banishment of the poet. Madame de Pompadour might have reversed the judgment had she been given the chance; but she was not given it, and, after all, Voltaire's exile did not make much difference to her. So the philosopher and Emilie were allowed to pursue their cold winter's journey, amid sundry break-downs and accidents, and prolonged involuntary star-gazing in a frosty night, to that pretty little oasis in ugly Champagne—a Lorrain enclave—in which stood the du Châtelets' castle.
Stanislas did not allow the brilliant couple to remain long in their uncongenial retirement. He was anxious not to be forestalled by Prussian Frederick, who made wry faces enough on finding the preference over himself and his famous Sans-souci given to the prince bourgeois and his tabagie de Lunéville. Stanislas' great ambition was, to make his Court a favoured seat of learning and letters. In his own, rather too complimentary opinion, he was himself something of a littérateur. Voltaire laughed pretty freely—behind the king's back—at his uncouth and incorrect prose and at those long and limping verses de onze à quatorze pieds, which the world has long since forgotten, as well it might. There are some well-put thoughts to be found in the king's Réflexions sur divers sujets de morale—for instance: "l'esprit est bien peu de chose quand ce n'est que de l'esprit," to say nothing of his oft-quoted motto: "malo periculosam libertatem quam quietam servitutem." But, at best his writings, however carefully revised by Solignac—his answer to Rousseau, and his Oeuvres d'un Philosophe Bienfaisant—are but ephemeral[Pg 185] trash. Really, Stanislas could not even speak or write French correctly. But though he was nothing of a writer, and not much more of a wit, he knew thoroughly how to appreciate talent and genius in others. And in a man occupying nominally royal rank, placed at the head of a brilliant Court, having a civil list corresponding in value to at least 6,000,000 francs in the present day, and a pension list of perfectly amazing length in his bestowal, such appreciation must mean something.
To understand the life of the little world into which, in 1748, Voltaire entered, we ought to remember what at that time Lorraine and its Court were. Stanislas had not been put upon his ephemeral throne without a definite object. To lodge the French king's penniless father-in-law, who no doubt had to be maintained somewhere, in the Palace of Lunéville, instead of that of Meudon or of Blois, and to allow him to amuse himself with playing at being king, was one thing. But very much more was required of him. In 1737 France had, after toying for several centuries, with greedy eyes and hungry tongue, with the precious morsel of Lorraine, at length firmly and finally closed her jaws upon it. It was a bitter fate for the duchy, in which France was detested; and the hardship was felt by every one of its sons from the powerful "grands chevaux" down to the humblest peasant. Of what French government meant, the Lorrains had had more than one taste. They were sipping at the bitter cup at that very time; they were having it raised daily to their lips, while that ablest of French administrators, De la Galaizière—a veritable French Bismarck, hard-headed, [Pg 186]hard-hearted, inexorably firm, and pitilessly exacting—was loading them with corvées, with vingtièmes, with the burden of conscription for the French army, plaguing them with high-handed judgments and oppressive penalties, all of which ran directly counter to the constitution which the nominal sovereign, Stanislas, had sworn to observe. It was Galaizière who was king, not Stanislas, the ornamental figure-head; and under his stern rule all Lorraine cried out.
Even courtly Saint Lambert, who, as a moneyless member of the petite noblesse, with his mouth wide open for French favours, represented in truth the least popular element in Lorrain Society, felt impelled by his Muse to record his protest in verse:
J'ai vu le magistrat qui régit la province
L'esclave de la Cour, et l'ennemi du prince,
Commander la corvée à de tristes cantons,
Où Cérès et la faim commandoient les moissons.
On avoit consumé les grains de l'autre année;
Et je crois voir encore la veuve infortunée,
Le débile orphelin, le vieillard épuisé,
Se trainer, en pleurant, au travail imposé.
Si quelques malheureux, languissants, hors d'haleine,
Cherchent un gazon frais, le bord de la fontaine,
Un piqueur inhumain les ramène aux travaux,
Ou leur vend à prix d'or un moment de repos.
But there was no help for it. Kind-hearted Stanislas was caused many a wretched hour by the incongruity of his position, which led his "subjects" to appeal to him against the oppression of "his chancellor," as he patronizingly called him who was in truth his master.[Pg 187] He had begged Louis to appoint a more humane and merciful man, but his prayer had proved of no avail.
Still, there was something which Stanislas could do. Affable, genial, kind, free-handed to a fault, the stranger puppet-king—the originally distrusted "Polonais"—might, in spite of all harsh government administered in his name, by tact and liberality gain the personal affections of his nominal subjects, and so in the character of a Lorrain Prince discharge better than any one else that odious task of un-Lorraining the Lorrains. All things considered, he earned his civil list.
French writers have very needlessly contended over the motives which led Father Menoux, of all men, the King's Jesuit confessor, to urge Stanislas to invite the great philosophe to his Court. Although repeatedly assailed on the score of its inherent improbability, Voltaire's own version is doubtless the most plausible. One of the leading characteristics of the Lorrain Court, as Voltaire knew it, was the sharp division prevailing between French and Lorrains, Jesuits and philosophes. By all his antecedents—by his rigidly Romanist education, by the principles carefully instilled into him, first by his parents, later by his wife—Stanislas was predisposed to take sides staunchly with the Jesuits. A more devout Catholic was not to be found. The king made all his household attend mass, appointed a special almoner for his gardes-du-corps, and directed the kitchen-folk to select a monastery for the scene of their daily devotions. In respect of offerings, the Church bled him freely, and found him a willing victim. More especially during the lifetime of his wife, that homely, very religious Catherine Opalinska whose bourgeois manners gave such[Pg 188] great offence to the courtiers of Versailles, the Jesuit faction had it all their own way.
But when Voltaire came to the Court, Catherine had been nearly a year in her grave. King Stanislas' immediate entourage, it is true, was still wholly Jesuit—the French governor, Galaizière; the King's intendant, Alliot; his father-confessor, Menoux; his useful secretary, de Solignac; Bathincourt, Thiange, and Madame de Grafigny's "Panpan," De Vaux. But otherwise a decided change had come over the scene. The lady head of the Court now was the peculiarly attractive Marquise de Boufflers, a declared philosophe, and, in virtue of her birth, the powerful leader of the Lorrain faction. She was a Beauvau, the daughter of that lovely Princesse de Craon who had ruled the heart of the late Duke Leopold. Her husband (who had not stood seriously in the way of her amours) was dead; and she was therefore quite free to give herself up to her liaison with Stanislas, who had formally installed her in some of the best apartments in the palace, in a suite adjoining his own, and handed over to her the management of the Court. She must have been a remarkably fascinating woman. We find Voltaire, in his courtly way, writing of her:
Vos yeux sont beaux, mais votre âme est plus belle,
Vous êtes simple et naturelle,
Et sans prétendre à rien, vous triomphez de tous.
Si vous eussiez vécu du temps de Gabrielle,
Je ne sais ce qu'on eût dit de vous,
Mais l'on n'aurait point parlé d'elle.
She is described as possessing a fine girlish figure,[Pg 189] a peculiarly clear and delicate complexion, exceptionally beautiful hair, and neat hands (which made de Tressan enamoured of her "comme un fou") and, moreover, a charming lightness and grace of movement and manner—endowments of nature which scarcely needed a fine discriminating taste and more than average intellectual powers to render effective. She sang, played, painted pastel, and possessed an inexhaustible fund of tact and self-command. Whenever she happened to be absent from the Court, de Tressan writes to Devaux, "Je me meurs, je péris d'ennui. On ne joue point, la société est décousue." Her nickname at Court was "La Dame de Volupté," which, as is shown by the following lines, composed by herself for her epitaph, she accepted good-humouredly:—
Ci gît, dans une paix profonde,
Cette Dame de Volupté,
Qui, pour plus grande sûreté,
Fit son paradis dans ce monde.
To the priests her relations with Stanislas constituted a serious stumbling-block, and many a lecture had the king to listen to from his confessor, Menoux. He accepted it submissively, and even performed the penances which on the score of Madame de Boufflers the Jesuit decreed. But discard her he would not, on any consideration. Just as little, on the other hand, would he discard the Jesuit, however good-humouredly he might listen to Madame de Boufflers' rather violent abuse of him.
Menoux was now trembling for his authority. [Pg 190]Madame de Boufflers' influence appeared to him to be growing too formidable. They were curious relations which subsisted between Voltaire and the priest. With de Tressan and other Academicians Menoux was at open and embittered feud. Voltaire was more of a statesman. To their faces the two opponents invariably professed the sincerest friendship and the warmest admiration. Even many years after we find Voltaire, when writing to Menoux, declaring to him his unaltered love and attachment, while at the same time paying the Abbé delicate compliments on the score of his esprit: "Je voudrais que vous m'aimassiez, car je vous aime." Behind their backs they called each other names. Menoux was by no means a mere hierophantic prig or sacerdotal oaf. Voltaire calls him "le plus intrigant et le plus hardi prêtre que j'ai jamais connu," and adds that he had "milked" Stanislas to the extent of a full million. D'Almbert describes him as the type of a Court divine—"habitué au meilleur monde," without any "rigidité claustrale"—"homme d'infiniment d'esprit, fin, délicat, intelligent, subtile, ayant heureusement cultivé les lettres et en conservant les grâces et la fraicheur sans la moindre trace de pédanterie." Between him and Boufflers there was continual warfare—above-ground and below-ground, by open hostilities and by schemes and intrigues. It was with a view to checkmating Boufflers, so Voltaire relates, that Menoux first suggested an invitation to Voltaire and Madame du Châtelet to come to the Court. Madame du Châtelet was to become the favourite's rival. To this theory French writers object that, as du Châtelet was some years older than Boufflers, not nearly as good-looking,[Pg 191] certainly not dévote, and another man's property already, the scheme was absurd. In the result Menoux certainly showed himself to have made a mistake; but that was owing to a circumstance which neither he nor any one else could have foreseen. Otherwise the scheme cannot be pronounced bad. To literary-minded Stanislas, at his time of life, the intellectual graces of du Châtelet might well balance the greater personal attractions of Boufflers. Besides, Menoux did not look for an actual ally so much as for a rival to the favourite. Even to lessen her absolute authority would be quite enough for his purpose. He travelled all the way to Cirey to sound the two, and, finding them willing, pressed their invitation upon Stanislas.
Stanislas was, as Menoux had foreseen, only too eager to accept the suggestion. He had had more than one taste of the pleasures of playing the Mæcenas. Montesquieu had been at his Court, working there at his Esprit des Lois, and Madame de Grafigny, Helvétius, Hénault, Maupertuis; and the shy and retiring, but gifted Devaux was a fixture. However, Stanislas wanted more. The only disappointment to Menoux was that he found the invitation planned by himself actually issued by his rival, Madame de Boufflers. It was, of course, accepted; and the beginning of 1748 saw Voltaire and Madame du Châtelet safely arrived at Commercy.
The Lorrain Court, always bright and gay, was at that time perhaps at its very brightest. Stanislas, being permitted to play at being king, and given ample pecuniary resources for doing so, played the game in good earnest, with a due appreciation of showy [Pg 192]externals, and with a singularly happy grace. He had at his command an apparatus which any real king might have envied. Here was Commercy, raised by Durand for the rich and tasteful Prince de Vaudémont, the friend of our William III. and of the elder Pretender, a blaze of magnificence, with gardens around it, and sheets of water, and cascades, which cast Versailles into the shade. His principal residence, however, one of the masterpieces designed by Boffrand, was the Palace of Lunéville. On seeing it Louis XV., surprised at its grandeur, exclaimed, "Mais, mon père, vous êtes mieux logé que moi." That was the
Moitié Turc et moitié Chinois,
Où le goût moderne et l'antique,
Sans se nuire, ont uni leurs lois,
of which Voltaire writes—very incongruous, but decidedly splendid and comfortable. Stanislas had added the delightful "Bosquet," laid out for him by Gervais—overloading it, it is true, with kiosks and pavilions, renaissance architecture and renaissance statuary, a hermitage, and eventually with de Tressan's "Chartreuse." Like all persons of "taste" in his day, Stanislas loved gimcrackery; he had utilized François Richard's inventive genius for embellishing his principal residence with a unique contrivance, admired by all Europe—an artificial rock with clockwork machinery setting about eighty figures in motion. You may see a picture of it still in the Nancy Museum. It must have been very ingenious and very ugly. First, there was a[Pg 193] miller's wife opening her casement-window to answer some supposed caller; then two cronies appear on the scene, engaging in a morning chat. A shepherd playing on his musette leads his flock, tinkling with bells, across the rock. Two wethers engage in a real contest; a clockwork dog jumps up, barking, and separates them. There was a forge, with hammers beating and sparks flying. An insatiable tippler knocks at the closed door of the tavern, and is answered by the hostess with a pailful of water emptied upon his head from a window above. In the distance a pious hermit is seen telling his beads. And in the background is discovered, standing on a balcony, to crown the whole, the Queen, Catherine Opalinska, complacently looking down upon the scene, while two sentries pace solemnly up and down, occasionally presenting arms. Such were the toys of royalty in those days. Besides these two palaces Stanislas had others—Chanteheux, well in view from Lunéville, built in the Polish style: "rien de plus superbe, rien de plus irrégulier"; Einville, flat and level, disparaged by the duc de Luynes, but nevertheless grand, and possessing a "salon" famed for its magnificence throughout Europe; and lastly the historic Malgrange, close to Nancy, the "Sans souci" of Henri le Bon, in which Catherine of Bourbon had met the Roman doctors of divinity, despatched to convert her, in learned disputation, and sent them away discomfited, to the no little annoyance of her brother, Henri IV. Beyond this, Héré was at work beautifying Nancy in the Louis-Quinze style, with statuary and balustrades, gorgeous gateways, and magnificent arches; and he was building that handsome palace, which now serves[Pg 194] as the Commanding General's quarters, in which, in 1814, when the Emperor of Austria, the last real Lorrain Duke's grandson, was lodged there, was hatched the Absolutist conspiracy of the "Holy Alliance."
The Court itself was modelled entirely on the pattern of the superior Olympus of Versailles. "On ne croyait pas avoir changé de lieu quand on passait de Versailles à Lunéville," says Voltaire. There was splendour, display, lavishness, gilding everywhere—only in Lorraine there was an absolute absence of etiquette and restraint—"ce qui complétait le charme." At Lunéville the etiquette was of the slightest. From the other palaces it was wholly banished—"me voici dans un beau palais, avec la plus grande liberté (et pourtant chez un roi)—à la Cour sans être courtisan." "C'est un homme charmant que le roi Stanislas," Voltaire goes on, in another letter. And not without cause. For Stanislas had placed himself and all his household at the great writer's service. The king entertained a perfect army of Court dignitaries, who had scarcely anything to do for their salaries. He had his gardes-du-corps, resplendent in scarlet and silver, his cadets-gentilhommes, who were practically pages, half of them Lorrains, the remainder Poles, his regular pages, two of whom must always stand by him, when playing at tric-trac, never moving a muscle all the while. He had his pet dwarf "Bébé," decked out in military dress, with a diminutive toy-coach and two goats to carry him about, and a page in yellow and black always to wait upon him. This dwarf the king would for a joke occasionally have baked up in a pie. Upon the pie being opened Bébé would jump out, sword in hand, greatly frightening the ladies[Pg 195] and performing on the dinner-table a sort of war-dance, which was his great accomplishment. Then he had his musique, headed by Anet, the particular friend of Lulli, and with Baptiste, another friend of Lulli, for "premier violon." The Lorrain court had always been noted for its concerts, its theatricals and its sauteries—that was at the time the fashionable name for balls. Adrienne Lecouvreur, Mademoiselle Clairon, Fleury, had all come out first on the Lorrain stage. Lunéville it was which invented the "Cotillon," which has become so popular all over the continent. Lunéville also was the birthplace of the aristocratic and graceful "Chapelet." And king Stanislas' orchestra enjoyed a European reputation. "Do you pay your musicians better than I do?" asked Louis Quinze of his father-in-law with a touch of jealousy. "No, my brother; but I pay them for what they do, you pay them for what they know." There was wit and fashion in abundance, and a galaxy of beauty—the royal-born Princesse de Roche-sur-Yon, the Princesse de Lützelburg, the fascinating Princesse de Talmonde, Stanislas' cousin, who subdued the heart of our young Pretender, the Countess of Leiningen, the Princesse de Craon, Madame de Mirepoix, Madame de Chimay, and others. But what of all things Stanislas prided himself upon most were his table and his kitchen. He was, as I have said, fond of gimcracks and he was a great eater, though he often concentrated all his eating upon one Gargantuan meal. The dinner-hour never came round fast enough for him, which made Galaizière say, "If you go on like that, Sire, we shall shortly have you dining the day before." His particular delight were quaint culinary refinements, [Pg 196]"imitations" and "surprises," which were only to be achieved with the help of so accomplished a master as his supreme chef de cuisine (there were five other chefs besides) Gilliers, the author of that unsurpassed cookery-book, Le cannaméliste français. Every dining-table at Court was a mechanical work of art. Touch a spring, when the cloth was removed, and there would start up a magnificent surtout—there were some measuring five feet by three—a silversmith's chef d'œuvre, covered with rocks, and castles, and trees, and statuary, a swan spouting water at a beautiful Leda, and the like. And between these ornaments was set out a rich array of dessert, likewise so shaped as to represent every variety of figures, like Dresden China. One year, when all the fruit failed—I believe it was while Voltaire was in Lorraine, in 1749, which was a year of unparalleled distress—Gilliers kept the Court supplied with a continual succession of imitation fruit, which did service for real plums and peaches. Stanislas had introduced such "bizarreries septentrionales" as raw choucroûte and unsavoury messes of meat and fruit, and imitation plongeon (great northern diver), produced by plucking a goose alive, beating it to death with rods, and preparing it in a peculiar way. A turkey treated in the same manner found itself transformed into a sham capercailzie. But the chefs d'œuvre were Gilliers' "surprises," prepared after much thought, to which Stanislas contributed his share. Voltaire makes out that "bread and wine"—which he did not always get—would have been amply sufficient for his modest wants; but what we hear of the Lorrain Court shows him to have been by no means indifferent to the [Pg 197]products of Gillier's inimitable cuisine. We read of Voltaire's eyes glistening with delight when, after the removal of the cloth, what looked like a ham was brought upon the table, and a truffled tongue. The ham turned out to be a confectionery made up of strawberry preserve and whipped cream, pané with macaroons; the tongue something of the same sort, truffled with chocolate. I must not forget the coffee, to which Voltaire, like most great writers, was devoted. Swift declared that he could not write unless he had "his coffee twice a week." Voltaire consumed from six to eight cups at a sitting—which is nothing compared with the performance of Delille, who, to keep off the megrim, swallowed twenty. Stanislas employed a special chef du café, La Veuve Christian, who was responsible for its quality. Then, there was the wine, Stanislas' special hobby. Of course, he had all the Lorrain crûs. The best of these, that grown on the famous Côte de Malzéville, close to Nancy, he had made sure of by bespeaking the entire produce in advance for his lifetime, at twelve francs the "measure." His peculiar pride, however, was his Tokay. Every year his predecessor, Francis, become Emperor of Germany, sent him a large cask, escorted all the way by a guard of Austrian grenadiers. As soon as ever that cask arrived, Stanislas set personally to work. What with drugs, and syrups, and sugar, and other wine, he manufactured out of one cask about ten, which he drew off into bottles specially made for the purpose. Some he kept for his own use at dessert. The larger portion he distributed among his friends, who every one of them becomingly declared upon their oath that better Tokay they had never tasted.
[Pg 198]But there were better things to entertain the Lorrain Court. There were fêtes; there were theatricals—at some of which Voltaire and du Châtelet performed in person, Voltaire as the "Assesseur" in L'Etourderie, du Châtelet as "Issé"; there was brilliant conversation, music, everything that money could buy and good company produce. And Voltaire was the fêted of all. "Voltaire était dieu à la Cour de Stanislas," says Capefigue. He could do as he liked—sleep, wake, work, mix with the company, stroll about alone—without any restraint; the king and all were at his beck, all eager for his every word, taking everything from him in the best part, appreciating, admiring, worshipping. His plays were put upon the stage. He was allowed to drill the actors at his pleasure. In this way, Le Glorieux was produced with great pomp; also Nanine, Brutus, Mérope, and Zaïre, the last-named, for a novelty, by a troupe of children. Whatever he wrote, he could make sure that he would have an attentive audience of illustrious personages to hear him read out.
Je coule ici mes heureux jours,
Dans la plus tranquille des Cours,
Sans intrigue, sans jalousie,
Auprès d'un roi sans courtisans,
Près de Boufflers et d'Emilie;
Je les vois et je les entends,
Il faut bien que je fasse envie.
If Voltaire was "god," Madame du Châtelet was "goddess"—waited upon, petted, having her every wish and every whim studied and gratified. There could seemingly be no more congenial, mutually appreciative group of persons than Stanislas and Voltaire, the Marquise de Boufflers and the Marquise du Châtelet.
[Pg 199]Stanislas was then already an oldish man—according to one of his biographers, Abbé Aubert, sixty-six; according to another, Abbé Proyart, seventy-one. He was not quite the robust hero that he had been when he accompanied Charles XII. on his trying ride to Bender, and shared rough camp-life with Mazeppa. When, in 1744, Charles Alexander of Lorraine crossed the Rhine at the head of 80,000 Austrians, and sent out manifestos which gladdened his countrymen's hearts, proclaiming that he was coming to take possession of the old Duchy—when signal-fires blazed on every hilltop of the Vosges to bid him welcome, and all Lorraine was throbbing with patriotic excitement; when Galaizière mustered what scratch forces he could improvise for defence, and dragged the twelve ornamental pieces of cannon out of the Lunéville Park to point against the foe—then Stanislas, remembering his age, had discreetly retired, in a sad state of tremor, behind the safe walls of Nancy. But in 1748 he was at any rate still hale and hearty, and bore the weight of his years with an easy grace. He managed to gallop to the Malgrange at a pace which left all his younger companions far behind. He is described as of winning manners, rather majestic in figure and bearing, of an engaging countenance, exceedingly good-natured and affable. It was said that "il ne savait pas haïr." "Je ne veux pas," he declared when multiplying charities and hospitals, "qu'il y ait un genre de maladie dont mes sujets pauvres ne puissent se faire traiter gratuitement." Among such "maladies" he included "the law"—for he paid advocates to give gratuitous advice to the poor.
[Pg 200]Voltaire is described as about at his best at that period. The air of Lorraine is said to have suited him particularly well. He was just turned fifty—a little too old, as Madame du Châtelet was cruel enough to inform him, to act the part of an ardent lover, but appearing to less exacting persons still in the very vigour of manhood. "Après une vie sobre, réglée, sagement laborieuse," he is represented as "well preserved"—slim, straight, upright, of a good bearing, with a well-shaped leg and a neat little foot. His features, we know, were wanting in regularity; but they wore a benevolent and pleasing expression. His greatest charm is said to have lain in his brilliant and expressive eyes, which seemed by their play to be ever anticipating the action of his lips. His mind certainly was still young, and so were his tastes. He is described as a most fastidious dandy, irréprochablement poudré et parfumé, affecting clothes of the latest cut and richly embroidered with gold. To his factotum at Paris, Abbé Moussinot, he writes from Lunéville: "Send me some diamond buckles for shoes or garters, twenty pounds of hair-powder, twenty pounds of scent, a bottle of essence of jessamine, two 'enormous' pots of pomatum à la fleur d'orange, two powder puffs, two embroidered vests,"—&c. He was, moreover, an accomplished courtier. Properly to ingratiate himself with his new host, he made his appearance at Commercy with a complimentary copy of his Henriade in his hand, on the flyleaf of which were penned these lines:
Le ciel, comme Henri, voulut vous éprouver:
La bonté, la valeur à tous deux fut commune,
Mais mon héros fit changer la fortune
Que votre vertu sut braver.
[Pg 201]Of Madame du Châtelet's appearance we have two hopelessly irreconcilable accounts. She was certainly past forty-two; if her ill-natured cousin, the Marquise de Créqui, speaks truly (and she refers doubters to the parish register of St. Roch), she was even five years more. Voltaire's portrait of her, painted with the brush of admiration, is probably more complimentary than strictly truthful. Madame du Deffand limns her in very different lines:—"Une femme grande et sèche, une maîtresse d'école sans hanches, la poitrine étroite, et sur la poitrine une petite mappe-monde perdue dans l'espace, de gros bras trop courts pour ses passions, des pieds de grue, une tête d'oiseau de nuit, le nez pointu, deux petits yeux verts de mer et verts de terre, le teint noir et rouge, la bouche plate et les dents clair-semées." This hideous portraiture, it is true, Sainte Beuve protests against as a "page plus amèrement satirique" than any to be found in French literature. But Madame de Créqui has even worse to say of her cousin, adding, by way of further embellishment, "des pieds terribles, et des mains formidables"—let alone that, if Emilie was "une merveille de force," she was also at the same time "un prodige de gaucherie." "Voilà la belle Emilie!" Even Voltaire speaks of her "main d'encre encore salie." However, everybody agrees in praising the grace of her manner, the remarkably attractive play of her expressive eyes—Saint Lambert calls her "la brune à l'œil fripon"—and her peculiar skill in becomingly dressing her dark hair. She spoke with engaging animation and quickly—"comme moi quand je fais la française," says Madame de Grafigny (who was always proud of being a Lorraine)—"comme[Pg 202] un ange," she completes the sentence. If during the day, while wholly engrossed upon her Newton, Emilie showed a little too much of the pedant, according to the same lady's testimony—"le soir elle est charmante."
The advent of the brilliant couple from Cirey, it need not be stated, added further strength to the philosophe party. Abbé Menoux found out that he had reckoned without his host. Between the two Marchionesses, De Boufflers and du Châtelet, in the place of the expected jealousy and rivalry, there proved to be nothing but sincere, close, and demonstrative friendship. To some extent Madame du Châtelet's amiability towards the Duke's favourite was a piece of diplomacy. She had not come into Lorraine without a very material object in view. Her husband was not as well off as either he or she might have wished; and, although in other matters she showed herself very indifferent to the dull "bonhomme"—that is what she used to call him—in matters of money she thoroughly supported his interest. As in some respect a vassal of the Duke of Lorraine, and a member of one of those four distinguished families which were known in Lorraine as "Les grands Chevaux"—the Lignivilles, the Lenoncourts, the Haraucourts and the du Châtelets—she considered that her husband had something like a claim upon king Stanislas. One of King Stanislas' best pieces of patronage, the post of grand maréchal des maisons, worth 2,000 écus a year, had at the time fallen vacant, and for her husband la belle Emilie resolved to secure it. It cost her a tough struggle, for there was a formidable rival in the field in the person of Berchenyi, a Hungarian, and one of the King's old favourites. However, her woman's[Pg 203] persistence triumphed in the end. Apart from such cupboard love, the two women, both of them possessing esprit, both born courtiers, and both, moreover, sharing a sublime contempt for the prosaic rules of what has become known as the "Nonconformist Conscience," seemed thoroughly made for one another. And their alliance told upon the Court. The Jesuits became alarmed. Menoux put himself upon his defence, and threw himself into the contest, more particularly with Voltaire, with a degree of vigour and energy which taxed all the combative power of his opponent. Others might eye the infidel askance and profess a holy horror of the opinions of one whom Heaven was fully expected some day to punish in its own way. There is an amusing anecdote of an unexpected encounter between Madame Alliot, the wife of the "Jesuit" intendant, and Voltaire, both of whom rushed for shelter, in a sudden and exceptionally violent storm, under the same tree. At first the lady shrank from the atheist as from an unclean thing. The rain, however, was inexorable. She revenged herself by preaching to the infidel, attributing the entire displeasure of Heaven, as evidenced in that fearful storm, to his unbelief. Voltaire, it is said, not feeling quite sure of his ground while lightnings were flashing, and in no sort of mood to play the Ajax, contented himself with meekly pleading that he had "written very much more that was good of Him to whom the lady referred than the lady herself could ever say in her whole life." Such harmless little hits the philosophe had now and then to put up with; but for serious fighting few besides Menoux had any stomach. Devaux (Panpan), however "dévot," was disarmed by[Pg 204] being—quite on the sly, but no less ardently—one of Madame de Boufflers' chosen admirers. Galaizière was taken up with other things. Solignac was too much of a dependent. "Mon Dieu" Choiseul did not carry sufficient weight. There was, indeed, another Abbé at Court, who might have been expected to help: Porquet, who became the Duke's almoner, a most amusing person in a passive way. But he was by no means cut out for a champion. Besides, being tutor to the young de Boufflers, he was scarcely a free agent. He himself describes himself as an "homme empaillé." When first appointed almoner, and called upon to say grace, he found that he had quite forgotten his Benedicite. Stanislas made him occasionally read to him out of the Bible, with the result that, half-dozing over the sacred page, he fell into mis-readings such as this: "Dieu apparut en singe à Jacob." "Comment," interrupted the Duke, "c'est 'en songe' que vous voulez dire!" "Eh, Sire, tout n'est-il pas possible à la puissance de Dieu?"
There was one sturdy supporter of Catholicism, however, who never flinched from the fight: that was Alliot, the Duke's intendant, who, by virtue of his office, had it in his power to make his dislike sharply felt. With what abhorrence he regarded the infidel guest, for whom he had to cater, we may learn from the contemporary records of his clerical allies, narratives which do not ordinarily come under the notice of persons reading about Voltaire. One can scarcely help drawing the inference that King Stanislas, with all his goodness and all his affected devotion to periculosa libertas, was a little bit of a "Mr. Facing-both-ways," using very[Pg 205] different arguments in different companies—a Pharisee to the Pharisees, a philosophe to the philosophes. Only thus could it come about that we have such extraordinary stories, altogether inconsistent with known facts, vouched for on the authority of reverend divines like Abbé Aubert and Abbé Proyart. "On vit quelquefois," says Abbé Proyart, "à la Cour du roi de Pologne certains sujets peu dignes de sa confiance, et le Prince les connoissoit; mais il trouvoit dans sa religion même des motifs de ne pas les éloigner." It was represented to him (by Alliot) that Voltaire "faisoit l'hypocrite." "C'est lui même, et non pas moi qu'il fait dupe," replied the king. "Son hypocrisie du moins est un hommage qu'il rend à la vertu. Et ne vaut-il pas mieux que nous le voyions hypocrite ici que scandaleux ailleurs?" But "le vrai sage," the Abbé goes on, found himself compelled at last to dismiss "le faux philosphe, qui commençoit à répandre à sa Cour le poison de ses dangereuses maximes." Under this clerical gloss the well-known story of Alliot stopping Voltaire's supply of food and candles assumes a totally new shape. "Ce ne fut pas une petite affaire que d'obliger Voltaire à sortir du château de Lunéville." In vain did the king treat his guest with marked coldness; the philosopher would not take the hint. In his predicament Stanislas appealed to the intendant for advice. "Sire," replies Alliot, "hoc genus dæmoniorum non ejicitur nisi in oratione et jejunio," which means, he explains, that "pour se débarrasser de pareilles pestes," having "prayed" them to go without avail, he should now enforce a "fast," which would certainly drive them out of the place. Stanislas is alleged to have fallen in with[Pg 206] the Jesuit's counsels; hence that open tiff with Alliot over the stoppage of provisions, which made Voltaire complain that he had not been allowed "bread, wine and candles." In truth, of course, all this clerical story is pure invention. Of the stopping of the provisions Stanislas knew nothing till advised by Voltaire, when he quickly set the matter right.
What with feasting, working, acting, dancing, travelling, the time passed most pleasantly. "En vérité," writes Voltaire to the Countess D'Argental, "ce séjourci est délicieux; c'est un château enchanté dont le maître fait les honneurs. Je crois que Madame du Châtelet passerait ici sa vie." Sometimes at Commercy, sometimes at the Malgrange, most generally at Lunéville, with visitors coming and going, discussions raised, attentions being paid this side and that, gallantry, billiards, tric-trac, lansquenet, comète (which was a great favourite), marionettes, fancy balls, time could hang heavily on no one's hands. "On a de tout ici, hors du temps." Madame du Châtelet, writing till five o'clock in the morning, though she rose not later than nine, worked hard at her translation of Newton, which Voltaire cried up as a masterpiece—more particularly the preface. Whenever she found herself at fault, she had a splendidly fitted-up astronomical cabinet, kept up by Stanislas, to fall back upon, a cabinet which, says Voltaire, "n'a pas son pareil en France." Voltaire himself carried on a brisk correspondence with the Argentals, with Frederick the Great, with his friend Falkener in Wandsworth, and with many more, and worked at his history "de cette maudite guerre," at the Siècle de Louis XIV., at Catilina, and so on, with the easy[Pg 207] industry which comes from comfort and absolute absence of restraint amid agreeable surroundings. To ingratiate himself the more with Madame de Boufflers, he wrote La Femme qui a raison. He acted and he criticized. He performed with a magic lantern, to the great amusement of the Court; and at masked balls he got himself up, sometimes as a "wild man," sometimes as an ancient augur. He was sorely troubled when threatened with a performance in Paris of a travesty of Semiramis. Then he lost some manuscripts. Then, again, Menoux frightened him with a tale that Le Mondain and Le Portatif, published at Amsterdam, had both been in France traced to his pen. Among the visitors who in the second year of his stay came to enliven the Court was our Young Pretender—over whose misfortunes Voltaire had pathetically lamented before King Stanislas—and Prince Cantacuzene. The Pretender's cause Voltaire had espoused with fervid warmth. The news of his arrest in Paris arrived at Lunéville at the very moment when he was delighting the Lorrain Court with reading out his just completed chapter of Le Siècle de Louis XIV., treating of the Stuarts. "O ciel!" he exclaimed, "est-il possible que le roi souffre cet affront et que sa gloire subisse une tache que toute l'eau de la Seine ne saurait laver?" "Que les hommes privés," he wrote later, "qui se plaignent de leurs infortunes jettent leurs yeux sur ce prince et sur ses ancêtres."
Several times he left Lorraine for a brief time, going with Madame du Châtelet to Cirey, to Châlons, and to Paris. One visit he paid to Paris by himself, to see Semiramis put on the stage. He came back in a pitiable state, the account of which in Longchamp's journal reads[Pg 208] comical enough. "Il est vrai que j'ai été malade," he writes later, "mais il y a plaisir à l'être chez le roi de Pologne; il n'y a personne assurément qui ait plus soin de ses malades que lui. On ne peut pas être meilleur roi et meilleur homme." One would think not. Voltaire was petted like an invalid child. He had but to send word that he wished to see Stanislas, to bring the king to his bedside. When he found himself "malingre, bon à rien qu' à perdre ses regards vers la Vôge," he was taken out to Chanteheux, and made thoroughly comfortable there, where he could best indulge in the idle pleasure of contemplating the mountains. Meanwhile Madame du Châtelet had been to Plombières with Madame de Boufflers, and had come home just as much disgusted with the place as Voltaire himself had been nine or ten years before. Then the gay Court reassembled, and there was the same life, the same succession of pleasures, the same effusion of wit and raillery. Gilliers invented new dishes. King Stanislas exhibited his indifferent pastels. Madame de Boufflers played the harp, and courtiers with voices sang to her accompaniment. Under Voltaire's inspiration, all the Court turned littérateur and engaged in versifying. Stanislas took up his pen once more and wrote, among other things, Le Philosophe Chrétien—horrifying thereby his daughter, the Queen of France, who persuaded herself that in the book she discerned the malignant teaching of the infidel Voltaire. Madame de Boufflers wrote; Saint Lambert composed fresh ditties; Devaux grew industrious; even Galaizière found himself impressed by the lyric Muse. Every courtier mounted his own little Pegasus and made an attempt to produce[Pg 209] something witty, or clever, or at least readable. Lunéville became a modern Athens.
But there was a snake in the grass. One of the pleasantest features of the remarkably sociable life carried on by the brilliant company assembled under the roof of Stanislas, while at Lunéville and at Commercy, were those merry nocturnal gatherings held as soon as the king had retired to rest—which he did punctually at ten o'clock, without ever troubling the company, in spite of his jealousy, with an unexpected reappearance. Then began Madame de Boufflers' reign in good earnest; and to the good cheer of a choice little supper, to which often an exciting game of comète or of cavagnole added a fresh delight, was summoned, by means of a lighted candle placed in a particular window, a new guest, whom Stanislas' jealousy would not otherwise tolerate in the palace. This guest was the young and handsome Saint Lambert, a captain in the Duke of Lorraine's Guards, the cynosure of the ladies' world, of whom it was said that no fair heart to which he seriously laid siege could resist him. His muse had not yet taken the frigid turn which eventually produced those dull and chilling Seasons, a poem in which no one will now detect any merit, though Voltaire praised it up to the skies, and French contemporaries declared that the poet had surpassed Thomson. But he dabbled very neatly in little ditties, vers d'occasion, and the like, some of them rather light and pretty, though not of the most perfect style. Voltaire professes to regard Saint Lambert as a terrible élève, of whose poetry he owns himself "jealous." "Il prend un pen ma tournure et l'embellit—j'éspère que la postérité m'en remerciera."[Pg 210] Posterity has done nothing of the kind. In matters of courtship Saint Lambert resembled the "papillon libertin" sketched by himself in one of his prettiest pièces fugitives:—
Plus pressant qu'amoureux, plus galant que fidèle,
De la rose coquette allez baiser le sein.
D'aimer et de changer faites-vous une loi:
A ces douces erreurs consacrez votre vie.
Neither Society nor History would ever have known him, nor have detected any talent in him, had it not been his fortune to dispossess his two great contemporaries, Voltaire and Rousseau, successively of their mistresses, conquering the heart, first of Madame du Châtelet, and later that of Madame de Houdetot. Madame de Houdetot and he turned out to be really congenial spirits. For Madame du Châtelet his own conduct shows that he did not really care—as how could a young man of thirty-one for a woman of forty-two or else forty-seven, who had been some years a grandmother? Her letters are full of impassioned professions of affection, impatient longings for his presence, reproaches for his indifference. On his side it was all a question of vanity. It flattered him to think that he had eclipsed the great genius of the age in the affections of a woman of whom all the polite world was talking. What she was he knew well enough. More than once had she tasted of the forbidden fruit. Voltaire's Epître à la Calomnie had not whitewashed the Magdalen who had had relations successively with Guébriant, with Richelieu, and with Voltaire. Of [Pg 211]Voltaire's overstrained praise of her assumed modesty Saint Lambert himself writes:—
De cette tendre Courtisane
Il faisait presque une Susanne.
But what could have induced Madame du Châtelet to engage in this conspiracy of deceit all round—deceit on her part towards Voltaire, deceit on Saint Lambert's part towards both Voltaire (with whom he was not then on terms of intimacy) and Madame de Boufflers (with whom he had a standing liaison)? It was in Madame de Boufflers' drawing-room, of all places, that the courtship was most actively carried on. Her gilt-framed harp, we hear, served as a letter-box for the lovers. There was a slit in it just of a convenient size to hold the letters, which passed daily. Of Madame du Châtelet's passion there could be no doubt. She threw herself into the amour with the fervour of a girl of sixteen. She sent her lover dainty billets-doux written on pink and blue-edged, fringed, and scented paper; declared that she could not live two days without hearing from him, when he was away; appointed rendez-vous in the "Bosquet"—watched and waited for him. It seems ridiculous in a grandmother; but she was not the first woman of her age to go wrong.
Clogenson will have it that the attachment sprang up some years before—that Madame du Châtelet became annoyed at Voltaire's long absence at the Court of King Frederick, and looked out for a new lover. We know, however, that Emilie and Saint Lambert met for the first time at the Lorrain Court in 1748, when Voltaire had long been back from Berlin, and was[Pg 212] devoting himself to his lady with an assiduity which could not be excelled. Besides, we know—from correspondence quite recently come to light—that as late as 1744 the relations between Voltaire and Emilie were still quite unclouded. The miniature portrait of Voltaire, which she wore so long secretly in her ring, and which was after her death found to have been replaced by one of Saint Lambert, was painted in 1744. In February of that year she writes to Abbé Moussinot: "Je vous laisse la choix du peintre, et je ne le trouverai pas cher, quoiqu'il puisse coûter." That does not sound like pining for a fresh lover. Evidently the later attachment dated only from 1748, when she first became personally acquainted with Saint Lambert; and, as the late M. Meaume puts it, "threw herself at his head." There is no need to look very far for an explanation. Emilie herself is perfectly outspoken about it. The temptation came. She had yielded so often that she had not sufficient virtue left to resist. The odd part of the business is, that Voltaire so readily forgave her; that he continued to dote upon her, to look upon her as half of his own self; and that he grew fast and admiring friends, almost in consequence of the betrayal, with his betrayer, Saint Lambert. Many years after, Saint Lambert very naïvely set forth his own views on the proper conduct of friends in matters of this kind in his Conte Iroquois. Voltaire accepted that not very chivalrous theory readily, and contented himself with protesting—"O ciel! voilà bien les femmes! J'en avais ôté Richelieu, Saint Lambert m'a expulsé: cela est dans l'ordre, un clou chasse l'autre."
[Pg 213]Growing poetic, he says:
"Dans ces vallons et dans ces bois,
Les fleurs dont Horace autrefois
Faisait des bouquets pour Glycère—
Saint Lambert ce n'est que pour toi
Que ces belles fleurs sont écloses:
C'est ta main qui cueille les roses.
Et les épines sont pour moi."
Indeed, his relations with Madame du Châtelet were not those of an ordinary lover. He did not look upon her as in his young days he had looked upon the inconstant "Pimpette," on the beautiful "Aurore," the pretty "Artemire," on the very "natural" Rupelmonde, or the false Adrienne. His heart beat to a different tune at Cirey from what it did in the Rue Cloche Perce. She was a companion and a friend—"une âme pour qui la mienne était faite."
There is no need to review the incidents of that melancholy love-making in detail. They are well known. It was at Commercy that the treachery was detected, and that those half-comical, half pathetic scenes described by Longchamp occurred—Voltaire, mad with a sense of the injury endured, firing up, abjuring Emilie, almost accepting Saint Lambert's challenge to fight, ordering his valet, Longchamp, to bespeak a coach and horses at once, that very night, for Paris. Longchamp knew too well who was master. Instead of rushing to the posting-house, he went quietly to Emilie, who directed him to let post-master, horses, and coach alone, and report that there were none to be had. Her cynically frank explanation, next morning, in Voltaire's own room put matters straight and Saint Lambert was not only[Pg 214] pardoned but asked pardon of by Voltaire and admitted as a friend to both parties. Later came the ludicrous trick played off upon the Marquis at Cirey. Last of all, there was the sad ending at Lunéville.
Madame du Châtelet had a short time before met Stanislas at the Trianon, and had begged him for the use, for the time of her confinement, of "le petit appartement de la reine" in the ducal palace, a handsome set of apartments on the ground-floor, looking out on one side on the Cour d'Honneur, on the other on the private gardens reserved for the Court—apartments which were magnificently furnished, but were prized by the petitioner chiefly for their comfort, and for their nearness to those other rooms, on the first floor (which command a splendid view across the Bosquet, bounded in the distance by the gorgeous façade of Chanteheux), in which Voltaire was to be lodged. Those rooms in the first story are now appropriated as a granary. Madame du Châtelet's apartments serve as quarters for the divisional General. King Stanislas, kind-hearted as ever, gladly acceded to the petition, and entered into all the arrangements with particular personal interest, as if they had concerned some near relative of his. Under his own and Madame de Bouffler's attentive care (to say nothing of Voltaire and Mademoiselle du Thil), we know how admirably Emilie was looked after, how satisfactorily at first all seemed to proceed—her Newton was finished just in the nick of time—till that fatal glass of iced orgeat suddenly turned happiness into grief, and made the palace a house of mourning.
Voltaire was dazed at the loss, unable to command[Pg 215] his words or his steps. He tottered out on to the little flight of stairs, where he sat in dull despair and stupefaction. In spite of all that had happened of late, he declared that he had lost, not a mistress, but "half of his own self." The world would be a different world to him now. There was to be no more of woman's love for him in his after-life. Lunéville was no longer a place for him. "Je ne pourrais pas supporter Lunéville, où je l'ai perdue d'une manière plus funeste que vous ne pensez." Stanislas, kind to the last, did all that he could to comfort his distressed friend. On the day of his great trial he went up thrice into his room, sat with him, and wept with him. We hear little of the funeral, except that it was carried out in a magnificent style, attended by the whole of the Court, and with all the honours which were due to a member of one of the four "Grands Chevaux." It seemed like a mockery of Fate that, on being carried out to be placed on the car the bier should have broken down in the large saloon in which only a few weeks before Emilie had gathered brilliant laurels in her favourite character of Issé, and that a mass of flowers, with which her coffin was covered, should have dropped on the very spot where on that occasion had fallen a shower of bouquets thrown in token of admiration. The parish church of St. Remy, then quite new, received the body—it is that same hideously grotesque rococo church now dedicated to St. Jacques, overladen with misshapen ornament, whose two lofty but gingerbread spires, "bourgeoises, lourdes, cossues et bonhommes au demeurant," as Edmond About describes them, stand up, a conspicuous landmark, visible from afar off, and looking down[Pg 216] on a scene far more attractive than themselves—the little town with its rectangular streets and squares, brightly-green vineyards all around, and laughing hop-grounds, carefully-kept gardens, dark bosquets, and luxuriant meadows, watered on one side by the broad Meurthe, on the other by the modest Vesouze—with the chain of the Vosges rising in the distance, overtopping those prettily undulating elevations with which Lunéville is fenced in. The tomb was new, the first dug in the nave—and it has remained the last. A black marble slab, bearing no inscription, was laid over the grave. That same black slab is there still. It was displaced once, when the rough champions of the Revolution raised it, in order to possess themselves of the lead of the coffin, scattering about rudely the bones which that coffin enclosed—almost at the precise moment when the body of Voltaire was being carried in triumph to the Pantheon in Paris. Pious hands gathered the remains once more together, and there they rest in the same humble vault.
Voltaire wrote serious verses upon Emilie's death; King Frederick the Great wrote flippant ones. Maupertuis lamented the possessor of brilliant powers never put to a bad use, a woman guilty of "ni tracasserie, ni médisance, ni mechanceté." Madame de Grafigny mourned over one who had "never told a lie:" Voltaire added that she had "never spoken ill of anyone." It all mattered little after she was gone. Voltaire packed up his things, and hurried off sorrowfully to Cirey, where he gathered together the various chattels with which he had made that place more habitable and more attractive; and before the Marquis[Pg 217] could seriously object, he had carried them off to Paris.
He had done his work at Lunéville. He had put the stamp of literature and taste on the place. He had set the current of learning flowing towards the Lorrain capital, where a year after de Tressan appeared, to add one more captive to the admiring army vanquished by de Boufflers—Tressan, the "Horace, Pollion et Tibulle" of Voltaire, but forgotten now—who in 1751 founded, under Stanislas' auspices, that "Société de Sciences et de Belles Lettres," which soon acquired the name of "Academy," and took rank in public estimation almost on a par with the sacred Olympus of the "Forty" at Paris. Montesquieu, Helvétius, Hénault, Fontenelle, Bishop Poncet, Bishop Drouas—all begged as a favour to be admitted. Really, that Academy—which is still a flourishing institution at Nancy—was Voltaire's work. Stanislas' fond dream had been realized, and the Court of Lorraine had become a foremost seat of the Muses.
Voltaire never forgot the hospitality received at Stanislas' hands. To the time of that nominal sovereign's melancholy death, he continued in friendly and affectionate correspondence with him. In 1760, after Louis XV. had refused him permission to settle once more on the banks of the Vesouze, we find him writing to the Polish king:—"Je me souviendrai toujours, Sire, avec la plus tendre et la plus respectueuse reconnaissance des jours heureux que j'ai passés dans votre palais. Je me souviendrai que vous daigniez faire les charmes de la société comme vous faisiez la félicité de vos peuples, et que si c'était un bonheur de dépendre de vous, c'en était un plus grand de vous approcher."
[Pg 218]Six years after that the little drama of the Lorrain Court was played out. Blind, and old, and deserted, Stanislas was not even sufficiently cared for to have some one handy to help when his silk dressing-gown caught fire. He died of his wounds—with an innocent bon-mot on his lips. The Lorrains, who had been slow to welcome him, crowded round his sick bed and his hearse. He had done his work. In spite of his failings, his posings, his airs, and his frivolities, no one need grudge him that tribute of esteem. He had made the change from independence, dear as life itself to the Lorrains while under their own dukes, to incorporation with France very much easier. He had done much material good to the Duchy, and to literature he had rendered very useful service. His Court is forgotten now. His Palace is turned into a barrack; and the once gay capital has, but for its garrison, become a sleepy little provincial town, in which the presence of a stray stranger puts the police at once on the qui vive. The hop-trade and the manufacture of dentelleries monopolize the attention of the inhabitants; and only rarely is it that some inquiring traveller comes to inspect with interest the spot on which was enacted the most important scene of what the late Comte d'Haussonville has aptly called "the great second act" of the comédie of Voltaire's life—that act which, according to the same gifted author, might be named "L'amour de la science, et la science de l'amour."
"Quarum virtutum laude hominum animas, dum in hac urbe morabaris, mirifice Tibi devinxisti."—Address of the Senate of Bonn to Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, January, 28, 1840.
There are incidents in a man's life—sometimes important, sometimes insignificant—which impress themselves upon his mind as if graven in "with a pen of iron." Thirty-two years have now passed away, but I remember, as if it had happened only a few weeks ago, old "Senius" putting his weather-worn face into my bedroom at Bonn, on the memorable grey morning of mid-December, 1861, to make the melancholy announcement: "Uür Prinz is doht." "Dat war 'ne johde Heer," he added rather impressively.
"Senius" was our "Stiefelfuchs"—which means a great deal more than having to "polish our boots." And in some capacity or other—it must have been a subordinate one—it had been his fate to be employed in the Prince Consort's household while the latter was[Pg 220] a student at Bonn. What qualified him for either of these positions I am at a loss to conjecture. He was nothing of a valet. We used to beg him, for mercy's sake, not to attempt to remove stains from our clothes, inasmuch as in doing so (in the only way which seemed to suggest itself to his untutored mind) he invariably made two smudges out of one by spitting just a little wide of the mark. At least that was the tradition. For any delicate mission, such as smuggling liquor into the "Carcer," he was absolutely useless. He knew well enough how to bandage a man for a "Mensur." And on the bitter cold days of a North-German winter the huge bowl of his ever-smoking pipe would be very acceptable as a hand-warmer to those gloved for the fight. He was honest, no doubt, and strictly faithful, and that must have helped to ingratiate him with the Prince. But his main recommendation appears to have been his curious capacity for saying odd things in an odd way, and in the quaintest of broad Rhenish patois, which made them sound doubly droll. What with quaint habits and quaint sayings, he had become a "character" at Bonn, generally popular as such, known to every man, woman and child in the place, and allowed almost any latitude of speech. The Prince, whose relish for humour was, in his student days, fully as keen as ever in after-life, appears to have been tickled with the man's unintended drollery; for, according to "Senius's" own naïvely frank account, he made it his amusement to "draw" him, eliciting odd answers by inoffensively unmerciful chaff. And this may account for "Senius" remaining in the princely household, and experiencing much kindness at his master's[Pg 221] hands. If gratitude be a return, the Prince had it in ample measure. That "dat war 'ne johde Heer" was spoken with unmistakable feeling, and it proved the prelude to a whole string of little anecdotes which—though not perhaps in themselves particularly remarkable or worth repeating—were poured forth with such simple earnestness as sufficiently testified, how firmly a sense of regard and affection had taken root in the old man's heart, to live there through many years of separation.
"Senius" was not the only person in Bonn who could grow warm upon this subject. The Prince's death, indeed, set loose in the University town a whole flood of anecdotes and reminiscences, some very trivial and commonplace, but all of them evidencing a lively interest and abiding regard. It is strange what power some persons possess of impressing men's minds. There have been scores of princes students at Bonn since, some of them spending more money and making much more of a show; but memory has closed over them like water over a ripple. There is none remembered like the then Prince of Coburg—down to the days of his grandson, the present Emperor, who, of course, conquered local hearts by identifying himself rather demonstratively with the place.
At my time people spoke frequently of "der Prinz Albehrt." All the older townsfolk remembered the "bildschöne junge Mann," who sat his horse like a born cavalier, and whose mere appearance was calculated to prepossess people in his favour. Two friends of mine—the brothers von C—— (one of them is now a retired general who has covered himself with glory in the wars in 1866 and 1870)—used as boys to make[Pg 222] a point of watching for the Coburg Princes when about to mount horse, from the house of their neighbour, Landrath von Hymmen, who lived just opposite. They would rush out eagerly at the proper moment to hold the Princes' stirrups, and consider themselves amply rewarded with a kind word or a genial smile. Travelling Englishmen have afterwards made it a matter of duty, Murray or Baedecker in hand, to "do" the simple house "in which Prince Albert lived," as they "did" the Münster and the Alte Zoll. To the people of Bonn the Prince's doings were a living memory. Only eighteen months ago I was surprised, while accidentally alluding to the subject in conversation with an old resident, since dead, to find that gentleman at once pulling out of his pocket a photograph of the Prince's house, which he seemed to carry about with him habitually. He knew all the windows, and the gateway, and answered questions about the Prince's habits of life as if they had referred to matters of yesterday.
In truth, Bonn owes a great deal to the Prince Consort—more than most people are aware. If the University has grown great and popular, a favourite with reigning houses, a High School in which every King of Prussia is expected to have pursued his studies, something like a "Christ Church" among German Universities; if the town has grown rich and flourishing, a favourite residence with wealth and position en retraite, the merit is in no small measure due to the Prince who, practically speaking, first set the fashion among illustrious folk. No scion of a reigning house, to speak of—none, certainly, to make a mark—had been at Bonn before. Indeed, Bonn, with its associations of the [Pg 223]Burschenschaft, of disaffection and of ecclesiastical strife, did not stand in the best of odours. Hence, when a Prince came to break the ice, of more than ordinary promise, and already connected by rumour with a high destiny, very naturally, all eyes were turned upon him. His subsequent marriage with the Queen—at that time certainly the most powerful sovereign in Christendom—following almost immediately upon his studentship, no doubt emphasised the effect and added force to the example. We see at once princes flocking to the Fridericia Guilelmia Rhenana—Schaumburgs, and Mecklenburgs, and Schleswig-Holsteins, and Meiningens. Twelve years after we have the heir to the Prussian Crown matriculating as a student. We find the roll of students growing at a bound from 650 to 731—to increase since to above 1,200. In short, we see Bonn developing into a different place. English folk—as the Prince's friend, Professor Loebell, puts it, rather uncomplimentarily, in one of his Belgian letters—send their "young bears" to Bonn in whole batches, "to be licked." Then the parents come themselves, bringing their families with them, to settle there. German rank and fashion follow in their wake, quintupling the population in less than sixty years—and the reputation and position of the town are made.
Bonn was a very different place from the fashionable town that it is now, when, on May 3, 1837, Professor Wutzer, as Rector Magnificus, pledged "Prinz Albrecht Franz, Herzog von Sachsen-Coburg-Gotha", "by pressure of hand in place of oath," to be a faithful "citizen" of the University. Prince Ernest, the Prince's elder brother, matriculated at the same time. There was[Pg 224] also a Prince of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, of whom little was seen or heard; moreover, Prince William of Löwenstein, who grew to be the Prince's intimate friend; and two Hohenlohes. (Prince Erbach is not in the University Register included among persons of illustrious birth.) All the wide belt of spruce and tidy villas set up amid laughing gardens, which now make Bonn so charming and attractive, and impart to it so pleasing a look of prosperity and comfort, were still a thing to come. The little town, having only about 12,000 inhabitants, still lay hemmed in within the lines of its old walls, the gates of which were carefully closed for security every night. There was an air of "smallness" about everything, except the handsome "Schloss," which Archbishop Clemens August had built (with money received from France) as a sumptuous residence for himself, but which King Frederick William III. in 1818, without much regard for Roman Catholic susceptibilities, converted into a "double-denomination" University. Lutheran divines now taught where the most orthodox of Catholic princes had held court. A non-denominational Senate conferred degrees where the last Archbishop-Elector, the Austrian Archduke Max Franz—"Abbé Sacrebleu," as he was popularly called—had danced with most unepiscopal perseverance and vigour. And at Poppelsdorf learned professors made the air malodorous with chemical stenches in the same palace in which that most courtly of all archbishops, Clemens August, had entertained those beautiful ladies who got him into rather serious trouble at Rome. But, apart from these costly buildings, all was country-townish. There was no Coblenzer Strasse as yet—only a small[Pg 225] cluster of houses, among which the Vinca Domini—whilom the winepress of the local lord—and the villa of the patriot Arndt, were alone conspicuous. Inside the walls the students were much in evidence, rough in their uncouth costume of those days, very "Guys" in embroidered "pikesches" and wide petticoat-trousers, having long curls dangling from their heads and heavy rapiers from their waists. However, opinion in high quarters was not altogether favourable to them. The revolutionary "Burschenschaft" had been strong in Bonn, numbering Heinrich Heine among its members. Rhineland was, moreover, at that time still wholly unreconciled to Prussian rule. Its seventeen years of incorporation with France had raised a crop of free and anti-Prussian ideas which were not soon to be eradicated. And with Austria so powerful, and Austrian sympathies so widely diffused, thanks to Max Franz, the authorities had still to deal gingerly with their new subjects. It made them wince to hear the words "'ne Prüss" commonly and openly used as a term of reproach and contempt—they were so to down in the fifties. But they could not interfere too rigorously. Then there was the ecclesiastical squabble, foreshadowing Prince Bismarck's "Culturkampf," and every bit as serious and as violent. Only incapacity like that of a Schmedding, and infatuation like that of a Bunsen, could have created such a hopeless dilemma. "Is your Government mad?" Cardinal Lambruschini is reported to have asked, when Bunsen communicated to him the appointment of Droste von Vischering to be Archbishop of Cologne, as a supposed "angel of peace." The Crown Prince, subsequently Frederick William IV., favoured the appointment. The "angel of peace" proved[Pg 226] a very demon of war. What with the dispute over mixed marriages, the Episcopal protest against State interference in Church matters, the Anathema pronounced by the new prelate against the latitudinarian school of the followers of Hermes, particularly favoured by the Government and deliberately installed at Bonn, and the Archbishop's uncompromising ban upon the University Convictorium, there was war along the whole line. All Rhineland, be it remembered, was then still staunchly Romanist. Bonn contained but a handful of Protestants. The "concurrently endowed" University, planted in the midst of a Catholic country, was a standing abomination and a perpetual taunt to the native population. The Prince's letters of that time show how fully he appreciated the grave significance of the struggle even at his early age. It was while he was at Bonn that the refractory Archbishop was carried off by force, to be "interned" at Minden.
Under such circumstances it required some resolution for a young Protestant Prince to settle amid an excited Romanist population. If to be "'ne Prüss" was a reproach, to be "'ne Jüss"—that is "Gueux," or Protestant—meant downright anathema. And Prince Albert settled right in what may be called a little Protestant colony, saucily set up under the very shadow of the beautiful east-end of that splendid old "Münster," which traces its foundation to Constantine, and has been the scene of Councils and Imperial coronations from the tenth century downwards.
The Empress Frederick, a few years ago, when in Bonn, very naturally asked to be shown the house in which her father had lived. By that time every vestige[Pg 227] of it had disappeared, and she could only be pointed out the site—a garden it is now, fronting an entirely new building in the Martinsplatz, close to where, up to the beginning of the century, stood the church which gave the square its name. But I can perfectly recall the unpretending structure, a three-storied, flat-gabled house, with a two-storied wing—the old-fashioned windows set off by dark-green shutters—lying rather in a hollow, within a yard enclosed in a stone wall pierced by a gate, but generally open in situation and yet, thanks to the enclosure, pretty private. It commanded very fair views of the Poppelsdorfer Allee—the favourite strolling-ground, ever since it was planted, for fashionable and unfashionable Bonn—of the Kreuzberg, and sideways of the more distant Seven Mountains. It seemed a small house to harbour two Princes and their suite, more especially when one was told that what seemed the main portion was reserved for the use of the owner. But it was a building of considerable depth, and so afforded sufficient room for the illustrious inmates and all their not very numerous household, which included, of course, the "excellent" Doctor Florschütz as tutor, the rather starchy martinet-soldier Herr von Wiechmann, who acted as governor, the Prince's favourite valet, and some more. All about the household, as about the Prince's doings generally, was marked by extreme simplicity, which could not, however, in any particular have suggested anything like niggardliness, but merely the voluntary plain living of a gentleman who had no taste for sumptuous habits. Meals, appointments, entertainments, everything indicated a dislike of display. The Prince's trap was such as an innkeeper[Pg 228] living opposite could, on its original owner's departure, purchase and use for his business-drives without occasioning remark. If there was one material thing in respect of which the Prince practised luxury, it was his little stud, which was small, but generally admired as choice, and which was, it need scarcely be added, much prized by its owner. The hours kept in the little green-shuttered house were probably the most regular in all the town. Everything in the illustrious student's life was subordinated to the purposes of study. Every hour had its allotted task. He must have been an early riser who could have seen the blinds down of a morning; and long before lights went out in some of the adjoining houses, all was darkness and rest in the Prince's home, which was a veritable temple of method and punctuality.
The quarters had been selected because the Duke of Saxe-Coburg wished his sons to be lodged with a professor. There were not many such with sufficiently large dwellings to select from, and possibly on that ground the choice had fallen upon a Professor of Medicine, who could have been of little service to the Princes in the prosecution of their studies. He was popularly known as "Gamaschenbischof"—"Gaiter-Bishop"—to distinguish him from the other Geheimrath Bischoff who became better known as a great professor of chemistry, but who wore no gaiters. I quite forget whether "Gamaschenbischof" was a Roman Catholic or a Protestant. But his next-door neighbour on the side of the old Neuthor—then still an old-fashioned arched gateway with a substantial gate to keep out bad characters at night—was the acknowledged head of the Lutheran congregation, then[Pg 229] a mere handful, the sparing growth of twenty years of Prussian rule. The little community did not yet possess a church of their own as they do now. Indeed, for many years after they had to content themselves with the use of the bald but lofty University chapel, which for many decades they have shared with their English fellow-Christians, often enough keeping the latter waiting when their sermon happened to be long, and considerately leaving a crucifix as a fixture for rigid Evangelicals to chafe at and write letters about to successive chaplains. But the proper stronghold of local Protestantism was to be found in that turreted little Château Gaillard facing the Münster, in which Pusey's friend, Professor Sack, Schleiermacher's least heterodox pupil, had at the Prince's time his official residence. The Coburg Princes, who loyally upheld their own Protestant church, were not infrequent visitors in the house of this pastor, who was well-informed and sociable, and by no means an unacceptable neighbour. Beyond the parsonage, directly abutting upon the Neuthor, was another Protestant institution—the Lutheran school—which, some years later, became a noted centre of attraction to males of all creeds, by reason of the residence in it of "The Three Graces," the Küster's—that is, the clerk and schoolmaster's—remarkably handsome daughters. But in 1837 and 1838 those ladies were still too young to do much mischief, even to so impressionable a cavalier as Prince Ernest. All these buildings spoken of, which still stood at my time, have long since been pulled down and made to give place to houses of a more modern type.
All things considered, it would have been difficult[Pg 230] for the Duke of Coburg to make a better choice of a University in which to give his sons the last finishing touch of education. Bonn has always stood high as a home of learning. King Frederick William III. was careful, with the most luxurious buildings and what was at that time considered a truly princely endowment, to bestow upon his own peculiar "pet child" as competent a teaching staff as money and favour could procure. And in 1837, though Niebuhr was gone, and Arndt was suspended—for preaching too vigorously the gospel of German union, which was then reputed rank heresy—and though Dahlmann, who would have been a professor after Prince Albert's own heart, had not yet come, the teaching staff could compare with that of any period. But apart from that, there was a tone of freedom and geniality prevailing at Bonn which distinguished that place from all other German universities. It was the least Prussian of all Prussian High Schools—far more in the world and in touch with the world than all its sisters. Set up on "Frankish" soil, which used to give Germany its Emperors; the chosen residence, until recently, of prelates of an ancient See, who had entertained relations from time immemorial with all great Courts, and who had been recruited from princely houses; and, last, but not least, only a generation before an integral portion of the Republic, "one and indivisible," which planted its tricolor nowhere without leaving its free spirit behind, even after the outward ensign was gone—Bonn nourished a more independent habit of thought and encouraged wider and larger views than did the "zopf"-ruled universities of the East. It was here, doubtless, among the patriotic[Pg 231] aspirations of a "Young Germany" unchilled by Carlsbad and Laibach, under the inspiring teaching of Arndt, that Duke Ernest, prophetically styled Spes patriæ in an address presented by the Academical Senate, conceived that liberal, high-minded and unselfish policy which paved the way as much as anything else for the Union of 1871. And to Prince Albert, likewise, this must have seemed a wider world than that of Coburg; and, in a period of life more formative of character than any other, it must have served to prepare him better for that freer sphere of action into which he was destined shortly to be called.
Niebuhr, as observed, was gone from Bonn. Arndt was removed from his "chair" for saying too freely in 1820 what Princes had openly proclaimed in 1813. Dahlmann was, in truth, still one of "the Seven of Göttingen," inasmuch as Ernest Augustus had not yet made his Hanoverians to regret that they were governed by the Salic law. But there was Welcker, the great historian of art, and the brilliant elocutionist, from whom the Prince must have learnt much of that close knowledge and warm appreciation of art which afterwards made him so efficient a furtherer of culture in this kingdom. There were Loebell and Perthes, von Alten, Bethmann-Hollweg, Walter, Brandis, Nitzsch, Deiters, Bleek, Breidenstein, Nöggerath, Argelander, Schlegel, Fichte, Plücker, Böcking, and many more—not a few of whom I can perfectly remember from my own days. The two Princes, and more particularly Prince Albert, knew how to turn the opportunities at their command to admirable account, not merely by attending the public lectures with exemplary regularity, but, in addition,[Pg 232] by seeking out learning, so to speak, en déshabillé, and drawing from it in the easy way of conversation and chat probably more information than it dispensed on more formal occasions. Prince Albert was on excellent terms with the most able of these men—Schlegel, Perthes, Bethmann-Hollweg, Walter and some more—and was frequently to be seen walking with one or other of them in the Poppelsdorfer Allee, or else on the Venusberg, or along the Rhine, keeping up an animated conversation. And often would he ask some one or two to his house, or else drop in—sometimes on his own invitation—to that peculiarly German repast of evening "tea," further to prosecute his cross-questioning. "Tea," of course, does not in this application mean anything like our own "five o'clock," nor yet quite so substantial a meal as our middle-class "high tea," but a light evening repast, such as is usual (viz., after a good mid-day dinner) among the cultivated classes in Germany, when en famille, from the Imperial Court downward. Taxing the stomach but little, such a meal leaves the head all the more free for intellectual occupation, and is, in truth, dependent for its best relish on the Attic salt supplied by the company. (The "tea" itself is, unfortunately, as a rule, indifferent in quality.) At Bonn these "teas" became little feasts of reason, and used to be, I am told, one of the Prince's particular delights. He was in the habit of discussing questions of learning and politics and statesmanship very freely with his own chosen little set, Prince Löwenstein and others. But he knew the difference between this and putting Professors (who in Bonn were then not merely men of the lamp) into the witness-box[Pg 233] and pleasurably pumping them dry over their own tea-table. Nobody relished this treatment more than the Professors themselves, who in after-time often spoke of the enjoyable evenings which they had spent, and the pleasure of discussing matters on which they were masters with so apt a pupil, who knew how to put brightness and stimulating interest into the conversation. The Prince's enjoyment, it is to be suspected, went even a little further. For, men of great learning as these Professors were, more than one of them had contracted odd habits of speech and manner, which no man was more quick to note and more apt inoffensively to caricature—in mien and with pencil—than the Prince. We know that he could use pen and brush deftly enough. And more particularly of his artist's work completed at Bonn several specimens survive—for instance, the Queen's "Savoyard Boy." Some of the caricature sketches referred to are said to have been admirable, and no less so the mimicry which, without malice or guile, brought out tellingly the little oddities of these learned gentry, to the intense amusement of a privileged and very select audience. There was, as it happened, ample material. Schlegel, the great and the witty—there could have been no pleasanter companion than he who first made the Germans understand Shakespeare—was, with all his merits, vain and conceited, and foolishly insisted upon parading his conceit before the world. He was old at that time, and lectured only at rare intervals, but every now and then some of that old impetuosity would break out, which in earlier days had made him, without regard for conventionalities, pull off his coat and waistcoat in[Pg 234] the midst of an evening party, in order to fling to his brother Frederick the smaller garment, for which in a rash moment he had bartered away a good story. Then there was Loebell, the friend of Tieck, the uncompromising Protestant, full of historic lore as an egg is of meat, and of truly magnetic attractiveness to his pupils, but ugly as a monkey, diffident and gauche, and, thanks to his habitual absence of mind, a source of the oddest and never-failing anecdote. Perthes and Fichte laid themselves equally open to ridicule. The "University Judge" (Proctor) von Salomon, commonly nicknamed "the Salamander," was made more than once to sit for a comic portrait; and Oberberghauptmann Count Beust—the Prince's own countryman, a native of Saxe-Coburg, with whom the Prince was on terms of comparative intimacy—provided at times irresistible food for laughter, not only by his curious squat little figure, but even more by that genuinely Saxon sing-song accent, which seems to be a common feature of all Beusts who have not remained in their old Brandenburg home. The statesman of the same name, whom we have seen in our midst, shared this same family defect, and was accordingly known in Saxony as "Beist;" and one of the Ministries of which he formed a member was currently spoken of, by way of joke, as "Behr beisst Rabenhorst." As droll as any was Professor Kaufmann, from whom, long before I listened to the curious cadences of his speech, the Prince Consort learnt very orthodox political economy conveyed in the prosiest of ways, fortunately relieved by the quaintest illustrations of economic truths which could ever have issued from the brain of man. He looked like one[Pg 235] of Cruikshank's figures come to life, and it was really difficult not to laugh at him.
The Prince's shafts of wit never wanted point, but at the same time they never struck painfully home. There was no mimicry or jest which even its victims could not readily forgive. Years after the Prince had left Bonn, the very men whom he had amused himself by taking off most mercilessly looked back, not only without resentment, but with absolute satisfaction, on all this intercourse. And when, on the approach of the Prince's marriage, it was proposed to send him a Latin address of congratulation, and to bestow upon him—as the fittest offering for the occasion that the Senate could think of—the Degree of Doctor utriusque juris, the motion was carried by acclamation, and the learned Professor Ritschl was at once commissioned to compose a Latin ode, which turned out perfect in grammar and prosody, but which is a trifle too long to be here quoted.
With the students, generally speaking—apart from his own little princely set—the Prince was less intimate. He would mingle with them in the quadrangle, the lecture-hall, and the fencing-room, and he would invite them periodically, in batches, to his hospitable table, where, of course, he made a most genial host. But I have heard complaints of his supposed reserve and coldness, and his keeping people at a distance, contrasting just a little with the engouement with which Prince Ernest was ready to take part in the fun and frolic of German student life. It was said that the coming engagement with the Queen, which rumour considerably ante-dated, had chilled Prince Albert's young blood, and led him[Pg 236] to stand a little on his dignity. Probably this was to some extent a question of manner. But, moreover, it ought to be borne in mind, that student life was in those days just a trifle rough, and, knowing what it was, one can readily understand the Prince's disinclination to identify himself altogether with habits not by any means congenial to himself. He could grow sociable enough with students on proper occasions. He is known to have been a regular attendant at the Fechtboden—where, however, he practised rather with the broad-sword than with the student's rapier—ready to accept the challenge of any competent opponent; and he would occasionally look on with interest at a real Mensur, whenever good fencers were put forward to fight. We know that at a great fencing match he carried off the first prize. Even beyond this, from time to time he would visit a students' Kneipe—having duly prepared himself for the short nocturnal dissipation with a little snooze—and join very readily in the fun and the mirth, more particularly in such amusements as allowed play for the intellectual faculties. He was fond of German melodies, and knew how to delight his audience with a song. And when it came to some serio-comic diversion—such as the mock-trial know as a Bierconvent, a travesty of legal proceedings, conceived, when ably led, in the spirit of Demosthenes' hypothetical lawsuit about "the shadow of an ass"—he is said to have been excellent. But mere beer-drinking and shouting[Pg 237] were not in his line. At home he was wont to cultivate the Muses, People still talk of a little volume of poetry which the two brothers are said to have brought out conjointly in support of a local charity, and to which Prince Albert is supposed to have contributed the verse, and Prince Ernest the tunes. I should not be surprised to learn that Prince Albert had as much to do with the music as with the text. So far as there was poetry and music and geniality to be found under the rough mask of student life, the Prince was very ready to take part in it. And during the sixteen months of his studentship he grew sufficiently familiar with some of his fellow-students even to tutoyer. My friend, E. von C——, who was then a boy, distinctly remembers meeting him walking towards the Rhine, and hearing him accosted by two burly "Westphalians": "Wo gehst du hin, Albert?" "Ich gehe ins Schiff," was his reply; "ich reise nach England." The Westphalians at once turned round to see him off. That was an eventful journey "to England."
How little hauteur really had to do with the Prince's intercourse with his fellow-men is testified by the friendly acquaintanceship which grew up at Bonn between him and persons of an entirely different class, and which has still left its honourable memories behind.
Pretty well opposite his own quarters, cornering the Martinsplatz—where now are two much-frequented shops—in those days stood a middle-sized house, over the door of which might be read the inscription "Weinwirthschaft von Peter Stamm." In later days, under a new proprietor, the house came to be more [Pg 238]ambitiously christened "Gasthaus zum Deutschen Hof." In this establishment both Princes were frequent visitors, perhaps Prince Albert more so than his brother. It was at this corner generally that they mounted horse for a ride—I believe that some of their horses were put up in the "Weinwirthschaft"—and here accordingly my friend, von C——, used to watch for them, in order to hold their stirrups. In a University town, in which
Bibit hera, bibit herus,
Bibit miles, bibit clerus,
Bibit ille, bibit illa,
Bibit servus cum ancilla,
Bibit velox, bibit piger,
Bibit albus, bibit niger,
Bibit constans, bibit vagus,
Bibit rudis, bibit magus,
Bibit pauper et aegrotus,
Bibit exul et ignotus,
Bibit puer, bibit canus,
Bibit praesul et decanus,
Bibit soror, bibit frater,
Bibit anus, bibit mater,
Bibit iste, bibit ille,
Bibunt centum, bibunt mille:
Tam pro Papa, tam pro rege
Bibunt omnes sine lege,
of course there are wine-shops many, and beer-shops many; and neither student nor "Philistine" need ever be in any fear of having to remain "dry" for want of liquor. But there has always been some one or other wine-house raised a little above the common run, not by any pretentious architecture or outfit—as a rule it was in external features one of the most unpretending in the town—but by the superior quality of the[Pg 239] liquor served. Here would meet—as is doubtless the case now—the honoratiores of the town, and some other blithe spirits, admitted almost by favour, a select clientèle, to sip down, to the accompaniment of fluent conversation, not the vulgar "schoppen" of the multitude, but the capitalist "special"—a half-pint held in a massive goblet-shaped glass. In my time the "select" wine-house of this sort was that of "Schmitzköbes"—which means "James Schmitz"—in the market-place. In the Prince's time it was the house of Peter Stamm. However, it was not for the wine that the Prince came to this house—though in moderation he appreciated a glass of good Rhenish, or Walporzheim. In our aristocratically organised country, where, moreover, sportsmanship is held to be public property, as accessible to the stockbroker as to the squire, we have no idea of the fast link which in Germany—altogether differently constituted, at any rate, then—the love of sport will bind between persons of totally different classes. It holds them together like a bracket. Prince and farmer, noble and tradesman—it is all alike quoad sport; for that purpose genuine comradeship is established, on altogether equal terms. There is no giving one's self away in this, nor yet any undue presumption. The tradesman remains a tradesman, the prince no less a prince; social differences are merely put aside. Now Peter Stamm was a most zealous sportsman, who knew where to find a hare or a bird for many miles round, and could spend whole nights and days with his dog and with his gun—more particularly if there were some like-minded companion to share the sport. And what was more for the present purpose, he was[Pg 240] an ardent horse-fancier, and a connaisseur of horse-flesh. His brother, "Stamm-hannes"—that is, "John Stamm"—was a noted horse-dealer and horse-breaker, who always had some good cattle on hand. And, moreover, Peter Stamm was a great dog-fancier, and known for having the best dogs in all Bonn. From him, I believe, it was that the Prince purchased that handsome favourite of his, Eôs, whom he brought over with him to England, his constant companion then on walks and drives and travels. So here was a threefold cord which bound together these two neighbours, living within a stone's throw of one another—a link which never broke in after-life. Long after the Prince had left Bonn, there used to be messages going backwards and forwards. When Peter was gone, Stamm-hannes kept up the intercourse, and on one of his travels to England even visited the Prince as an old friend. They are both dead now—and so is Nicolas, the third brother, who kept the Bellevue Hotel on the Rhine. But to the present day old Fräulein Stamm, now eighty-three years of age, carefully preserves and affectionately cherishes the few keepsakes which still remain of the Prince's giving—originally to Peter—and there is nothing that the old lady is more fond of talking about than those old days, when the Prince and Peter used to drive out to the Kottenforst together, and Peter would come home and tell her of their common, not overexciting, adventures. The keepsakes have dwindled down to three pictures and two porcelain cups, the latter rather rudely painted, as was the fashion in those days, with views of the Drachenfels and Rolandseck. Of the pictures, two are portraits of the young Princes[Pg 241] taken at Brussels before they repaired to Bonn, and showing their boyish faces flanked by two heavy pairs of epaulettes. The third, a woodcut, represents some unknown sportsman going a-stalking. There used to be other small articles, such as sportsman friends are in the habit of presenting to one another; but time has, one after the other, disposed of them.
The Prince, we know, was always particularly fond of bodily exercise. At Bonn he would fence regularly. And he would swim with as much zest, and think nothing of mixing with the common crowd in those rough-and-ready swimming-baths which I well remember; for in my time they were still all the convenience for river bathing that Bonn had to offer—a rude concern on the other bank of the Rhine, knocked together out of a raft and a few sheds. In those baths the Prince did not seem to mind whom he rubbed shoulders with. In this respect he closely resembled his son-in-law, the Emperor Frederick, whose popularity in Berlin was not a little enhanced by the sans gêne with which he would, while in the water, join in the splashing and larking of his future subjects, to whom it never on such occasions occurred to forget themselves. A simple "Na, Jungens, jetzt ist genug" from the Prince would at once warn them back into proper distance. The Prince Consort became just as popular among the swimmers at Bonn. The Rhine is really a troublesome river to swim in, on account of the force of its current. The Prince would have himself rowed up a pretty long distance, to swim back. I once or twice swam the same distance, in company with Count H——, of the "Borussians," and we both found it quite[Pg 242] long enough. A very favourite sport with the Prince was, to tumble little boys into the water—the swimming-master being by for safety—and then dive after them to bring them up. He would select such as were not likely to be frightened. And they came to like the fun.
But the Prince's favourite recreation of all was going a-shooting. In the near neighbourhood of Bonn there is no very ambitious sport. The more venturesome spirits go as far as the Eifel Mountains, there to kill wild-boar and red-deer. For this the Prince grudged the time. So he had to be content with hares and birds, an occasional roebuck—and, I dare say, in those, early days he now and then brought down a fox, which in Germany is reckoned rather good sport. When, in 1858, the Crown Prince, Emperor Frederick, came back from his wedding, and found the officers of the Deutz Cuirassiers drawn up in line at the Cologne station to salute him, he singled out Count F——, of M—dorf, to present more especially to his bride. "I must present Count F—— to you," he said; "it was on his estate that I shot my first fox." Either Count F——'s conscience stung him, or else he realised better than the Crown Prince in what light vulpicide is regarded in the Princess's country: "It was not really a fox, Sir," he explained with some embarrassment; "it was a wild cat."
There were water-fowl near Brühl; there used to be a heronry there. But I do not think the Prince went in that direction. His ordinary shooting-ground was near Bergheim, on the other side of the Rhine and, beyond the Venusberg, in the Kottenforst, a long[Pg 243] stretch of forest, not everywhere well-timbered, in which Peter Stamm had a "Jagd," to which of course the Prince was welcome. Wherever the forest was a little ragged there were, of course, black game. And then, in spring, to the Prince's great delight, there was woodcock shooting. The "Schnepfenstrich" was his pet sport, and never was he to be seen more regularly driving his plain little trap out to Röttgen—where Stamm had his shooting—the faithful Peter always by his side—than in the four weeks which precede Palm Sunday, the season of all others sacred in Germany to woodcock shooting, for
Oculi, da kommen sie;
Laetare, das ist das wahre;
Judica, sind sie auch noch da;
The Latin words are the Lutheran calendar names for the four Sundays next before Easter.
Often Stamm-hannes would be of the party—often also Everard Sator, another local Nimrod and horse-fancier, of Stamm's peculiar set, and acceptable to the Prince. And some of the Prince's more aristocratic companions would likewise occasionally join. But the Prince and Peter were in this matter inseparables, roughing it out on the wooded heights from sheer love of sport; and after that they would meet in the "Weinwirthschaft" and talk over their common experiences, being attentively overheard by a small company who reckoned it a privilege, however little they might know about shooting, to listen to these sportmen's tales, and bottle them up to retail to others after the Prince was gone.
[Pg 244]There was another very faithful friend, of humbler station still, whose heart the Prince managed to capture by his genial affability and the kind interest which it was his wont to manifest in others. Nobody could have stayed any time in Bonn at that particular period without becoming acquainted with "Appeltring"—or, as she was more ceremoniously called to her face, "Frau Gevatterin." She was, without question, the most popular "character" in Bonn, and there was no man who had not a kind word for her, and was not ready to test her well-known power of repartee by a little joke. "Appeltring," of course, means "Apple-kate"—"Tring" standing for Katherine by one of those extraordinary transformations of names which, probably, not even Grimm could explain, and which in the Rhenish dialect convert "Heinrich" into "Drickes," and "Reinhard" into "Nieres." She was an apple-woman, as her name implies, or, rather, a seller of fruit generally, and had her stall or tent just outside the Neuthor, close to the Prince's quarters, and on a spot which he must pass several times almost every day—a coign of vantage, moreover, from which all the fashionable and unfashionable world taking the air in the Poppelsdorfer Allee, might be surveyed, as can all the fine folk passing in and out of Hyde Park from Hyde Park Corner. She was on that spot still when I was at Bonn twenty-three years later, and she was there for some time after—a weather-bronzed, wrinkled old woman then, but still full of chat and lively talk, humour and repartee, and endowed with a truly encyclopædic knowledge of everyone who had been anyone at Bonn, and of his life, and failings, and little adventures. Even in the[Pg 245] Prince's day she was decidedly past her first youth, and devoid of personal attractions; but she had still something of the halo about her then of a not very distant serio-comic little love affair, about which she was made to hear no end of chaff—with a trumpeter (named Bengler, if I recollect right) who lost his life in that Russian war in which the great Moltke won his first spurs. During all the time that she offered her wares outside the Neuthor her stall was a favourite resort with folk who had a spare quarter of an hour on their hands, some of them of the best blood. The Emperor Frederick has sat on that spot many a time, watching the passers-by, and exchanging chat with "Tring," while eating cherries from one of the shallow flat-bottomed baskets in which "Frau Gevatterin," or her younger assistant, served them from the tent; and so have the Coburg Princes, more particularly Prince Albert, who had a peculiar liking for "Appeltring" and her quaint ways, her good temper, and her ready answers. Barring the Princes, "Tring's" customers were not always prompt paymasters. This necessitated the keeping of accounts, which, as "Tring" was nothing of a penwoman, resulted in a description of bookkeeping so curious as to induce a learned archæological society of Bonn afterwards to publish her records in facsimile. There were no names, but rude imitations of a beard, or a tassel, or big top-boots, or else a peculiar nose, or a pair of spectacles, or some other distinguishing feature about the particular debtor.
The habit of almost daily chat begot a peculiar familiarity and interest in one another's affairs between these two people at opposite poles of society, and[Pg 246] inspired "Tring" with a devotion to the Prince which has just a touch of romance about it. To her simple but honest mind the Prince was the noblest creature that walked the earth. Whenever he failed to pass to bid her good-day, she seemed to feel as if deprived of a substantial pleasure. For years and decades after he had gone she would relate with striking animation little stories of his life in Bonn, and tell of his kindness to her. She was indefatigable in inquiries about him, and would draw in every word of information received with eager curiosity. Nor did she ever hear of anyone going to England without commissioning him—"Jrüsse Se den Prinzen Albehrt." It sounded very ridiculous to some, no doubt. But I venture to surmise, that to the Prince himself that broadly Rhenish "Jrüsse Se den Prinzen Albehrt" would have been a not unwelcome greeting.
Most of the good people here spoken of, with whom the Prince exchanged jokes and more serious intercourse, whom he charmed with his happy temper or edified with graver talk, are now dead and gone. Bonn has grown a town of 50,000 or 60,000 inhabitants, well-to-do, bright and attractive, adding to its population year by year. The University has throughout its history maintained its old high rank. As a new generation rises up old reminiscences are dying out. Stories which thirty years ago passed current from mouth to mouth are gradually being forgotten. There is so much more that used to be told of the Prince, when memories were fresh; indeed, there is much that might be told still, only the incidents seem trivial in themselves, and memorable only as demonstrating what singular power their hero possessed of riveting men's affections, and[Pg 247] as concurring in impressing a stamp of noble principle, unselfish consideration for others, of a genial and happy disposition, and laborious devotion to study upon his student life of sixteen months. There was, there is reason to believe, very much good done in private, of which the outside world never heard. To Bonn the Prince's stay was a turning-point in its history; and, since elsewhere scarcely anything has been said about that particular epoch in the Prince's life, it may not be unmeet to gather together the fragments of traditions and reminiscences surviving, before they pass finally out of men's minds, and thus to fill a gap hitherto left in the memorials of a life which has in its later periods amply realized the promise given in the early days of youth here spoken of.
When Judas Iscariot, as the legend has it, prompted by a presumptuous ambition to emulate Our Saviour in the performance of a miracle similar to that of Cana, spoke his cabalistic words over the water which he desired to make potable, it may be argued that a worse product might have resulted from the process than beer—at any rate from a non-teetotal point of view. According to another legend, of wider currency, the inventor of beer was not the apostate apostle, but a more or less mythical king of Brabant, named Gambrinus. His bine-crowned visage may be seen beaming from the walls of most tap-rooms in Germany and in those more or less German provinces which once formed, or should have formed, or still form, that political desideratum, the "Middle Kingdom." This is a case of ex vocabulo fabula. For Gambrivium is Cambray—the Cambray of the League and also of early [Pg 249]brewing. And "Gambrinus" is either John the Victorious of Brabant, who fell in a tournament held at Bar-le-Duc on the occasion of the marriage of Henri, count of that country, with Eleanor, daughter of our King Edward I., or else—and more probably—it is Jean Sans-Peur of Burgundy, who, to ingratiate himself with his Flemish subjects, had a dollar coined, showing a wreath of hop-bine encircling his head—and also instituted the order of the Houblon, giving no little offence thereby to his loyal clergy. Not that there was anything at all heretical in his act. No; but the case was really much worse. For the clergy, it turned out, in those days had a vested interest in beer. That was in the fourteenth century, when the liquor was still generally brewed without hops, a mixture of aromatic herbs being used instead, which was in most cases supplied from episcopal forests. So it was in Brabant. The Bishop of Liége possessed virtually a monopoly of the trade in gruyt, and when Duke John favoured the cultivation of hops, the bishop's income suffered a serious diminution. Accordingly, his Eminence remonstrated—just as in our country, about 1400, and again in 1442, complaint was made to Parliament of the introduction of that "wicked weed, that would spoil the taste of drink and endanger the people." In the dioceses of Utrecht and Cologne it was just the same thing. The bishops fought hard for their gruyt or krüt, using their crosiers as a defensive weapon, but had eventually to give in. From this it would appear that what King Gambrinus really did introduce was not beer, but the use in the brewing of it of hops, the ingredient over which that eminent saint, Abbess Hildegardis of[Pg 250] Rupertusberg, had already pronounced her benediction. St. Hildegardis was a saint of unquestionable authority, having been specially recognised at the Council of Trèves as a prophetess by St. Bernard and Pope Eugenius IV. She recommended hops on the ground that, though "heating and drying," and productive of "a certain melancholy and sadness" (she must have been thinking of the effects next day), they possess the sovereign virtues of preventing noxious fermentation and also of preserving the beer. (Burton, in partial opposition to the saint, asserts that beer—hopped, of course—"hath an especial virtue against melancholy, as our herbalists confess.") St. Hildegardis' opinion was given in the twelfth century. That was not by any means the earliest age of beer; for we find it referred to in history some centuries before. Whether the inhabitants of Chalcedon, when they shouted in derision after the Emperor Valens, "Sabajarius! Sabajarius!"—which has been translated, "drinker of beer"—really referred to beer, as we now understand it, must appear doubtful. In the same way, the reputed "beer" of the early Egyptians and Hebrews—alluded to by Xenophon, Herodotus, and other ancient writers—may or may not have been beer in our sense. But in the eighth century we find Charlemagne enjoining brewing in his dominions. In 862 we have Charles the Bald making to the monks of St. Denis a grant of ninety boisseaux d'épeautre a year pour faire de la cervoise. In 1042 we have Henri I. conferring on the monks of Montreuil-sur-Marne the valuable right of brewing, and in 1268 St. Louis laying down rules for the guidance of brewers in Paris. Paris[Pg 251] was then, as it now is becoming again—I cannot say that I like the idea—a very "beery" place. Its brewers, even at a very remote time, formed a highly respected corporation, using as their insignia and trade-mark an image of the Holy Virgin—their patron saint—incongruously enough grouped together with Ceres, both being encircled by the legend:—Bacchi Ceres aemula. No modern Pope would allow such crossing of the two religions. Ceres was of course in olden time looked upon as the especial goddess of beer, made of barley, which was after her named Cerevisia. Juvenal mentions Demetrius as its name, derived of course from Demeter. However, Fischart, a notable German poet, who lived in the sixteenth century, ascribes its invention to Bacchus, as an intended substitute for wine wherever there are no grapes. Modern Germany has produced a very pretty song, which represents Wine as a wonder-working nobleman, making a triumphal progress in grand style, clad in silk and gold, and Beer crossing his path as a sturdy but rather perky peasant, in a frieze jacket and top-boots, challenging him to a thaumaturgic tourney, as Jannes and Jambres challenged Moses. After an amusing little squabble the two make friends, and henceforth rule the world in joint sovereignty and happy unity. At Paris, in the reign of Charles V., we find the local brewers, twenty-one in number, so wealthy as to be able to pay a million écus d'or for their licenses. Under Charles VI., beer had become a regulation drink at the French court, and we have our own Richard II. presenting the French king with a "vaisseau à boire cervoise." From this it may be inferred that the famous verselet—
[Pg 252] Hops and turkeys, carps and beer,
or, as some rigid Anglican has improved it—
Hops, reformation, bays, and beer
Came to England all in one year—
to wit, the year 1525—is a little wrong in its date, and that beer was known earlier. After the date named, we know that it soon made its way into the highest circles. As proof of this we have the one shoe which Queen Bess carelessly left behind after that lunch, of which beer formed an item, with which she was regaled on her progress through Sussex, under the spreading oak still shown in that pretty village of Northiam—
O fair Norjem! thou dost far exceed
Beckley, Peasmarsh, Udimore, and Brede—
which shoe may still be seen, by favour, in the private archæological collection at Brickwall House, in company with Accepted Frewen's toasting-fork.
Saxon descent may have had much to do with the development of our own peculiar cerevisial taste—taste, that is, for beer with some body and a good strong flavour of malt. There can be no doubt that, compared with the produce of other countries, our beer is still the best—if only one's liver will stand it—the most tasty, the most nourishing—"meat, drink and cloth," as Sir John Linger puts it—beer which will occasionally "make a cat speak and a wise man dumb." The Saxons always had a liking for beer with something in it—not merely "strong water," as Sir Richard l'Estrange calls the small stuff. The ancient Teutons, we know, were all of them furious drinkers. Accordingly, not a few of the modern generation hold, with Luther's Elector of Saxony, that a custom of such[Pg 253] very venerable antiquity ought not to be lightly abandoned. Tacitus writes that the Germans think it no shame to spend a whole day and night a-drinking. The Greek Emperor Nicephoras Phorcas told the ambassador of Emperor Otho that his master's soldiers had no other proficiency but in getting drunk. Rudolph of Hapsburgh grew vociferous over the discovery of good beer. "Walk in, walk in!" he shouted, standing at a tavern door in Erfurt, wholly oblivious of his imperial dignity; "there is excellent beer to be had inside." And "good King Wenceslas" of our Christmas carol—described as "good" nowhere else—was an habitual toper, and was "done" accordingly by the French at Rheims, where he thought more of the wine than of the treaty which he was negotiating. Henri Quatre would on no account marry a German wife. "Je croirais," he said, "toujours avoir un pot de vin auprès de moi." A modern writer, Charles Monselet, says that in Strassburg—in this respect a typically German town—"tout se ressent de la domination de la bière." Beer lends its colour to the faces of the inhabitants, to their hair, to their clothes; to the soil and the houses; and the very women seem nothing but "walking chopes." But the Saxons in particular—not the modern ones, but those of the North, some of whom found their way into England—always loved good stout nutritious drink, such as that to which the German composer Von Flotow ascribes our sturdy robustness:
Das ist das treffliche Elixir,
Das ist das kräftige Porterbier.
Obsopæus says of the ancient Saxons:
Coctam Cererem potant crassosque liquores.
[Pg 254]And an old rhyme, still quoted with gusto, goes to this effect:
Ein echter Sachse wird, wie alle Völker sagen,
Nie schmal in Schultern sein, noch schlaffe Lenden tragen.
Fragt Einer, welches denn die Ursach' sei:
Er isset Speck und Wurst, und trinket Mumm dabei.
"Mumm" is our own good old "mum," about the meaning of which in an Act of Parliament there was recently some controversy, when even Mr. Gladstone did not quite know how to explain it. It is the good, thick, stout, nourishing beer—nil spissius illo—which makes blood and flesh, and gives strength—"vires præstat et augmentat carnem, generatque cruorem," says the school of Salerno. Very presumably it is such beer as this, too, of which the unnamed witty poet quoted in Percy's "Reliques" writes:
Efficit heroas dignamque heroe puellam.
No doubt beer has had a good many nasty things said about it. The same school of Salerno lays it down that "crassos humores nutrit cerevisia, ventrem quoque mollit et inflat." It also affirms that ebriety resulting from beer is more hurtful than that produced by wine. But, notwithstanding this, it endorses the advice given by Matthew de Gradibus, which is, to drink it in preference to wine at the beginning of, or even throughout, meals, and above all things after any great exertion. "Cerevisia vero utpote crassior, et ad concoctionem pertinacior, non tam avide rapitur: quare ab ea potus in principio prandii vel cœnae utilius inchoatur. Cerevisia humores etiam orificio stomachi insidentes abluit, et sitim, quæ ex nimia vini potatione[Pg 255] timetur, praeterea et quamlibet aliam mendosam coercet ac reprimit." To say nothing of the censure pronounced by Crato, Henry of Avranches, and Wolfram von Eschenbach—that pillar of the Roman Church, Cardinal Chigi, charitably suggests that if beer had but a little sulphur added, it would become a right infernal drink. And Moscherosch, joking on the admixture of pitch with beer, common in his time—possibly copied from a similar practice applied to wine in the days of ancient Greece—speaks of "la bière poissée qui habitue au feu de l'enfer." "Pix intrantibus" used to be a familiar superscription placed for a joke over tavern doors. Then, again, we have Luther barely qualifying the old German rhyme—
Gott machte Gutes, Böses wir:
Er braute Wein, wir brauen Bier—
by laying it down that "Vinum est donatio Dei, cerevisia traditio humana." And he went so far as to pronounce the leading brewer of his time "Pestis Germaniae." But this same Luther was himself a zealous beer-toper. He drank beer, it is on record, when plotting the Reformation with Melanchthon at Torgau. He called for Bierseidel when Carlstadt came to the "Bear" at Jena to discuss with him the subject of consubstantiation. And the two divines used their pewters very freely by way of accentuating their theological arguments, and, towards the close of the sitting, even in substitution of them. Luther records with satisfaction, in his "Table Talk," that many presents reached him from France, Prussia, and Russia, of "wormwood-beer." And at Worms, where he was pleading the cause of the reformed faith before a hostile Diet, the one ray of[Pg 256] comfort which pierced through the gloom of his imprisonment was the arrival, particularly mentioned in his letters, of a small cask of "Eimbeck" beer from one of the friendly princes. Like our modern M.P.'s annually exercised about the matter, the German reformer had a fervent zeal for the "purity of beer"—so fervent, that he actually threatened adulterating brewers with Divine wrath. He wrote these lines:
Am jüngsten Tage wird geschaut
Was jeder für ein Bier gebraut.
On the other hand, Cardinal Chigi's Roman anathema is more than neutralised by any number of benedictions, expressed or implied, from holy men of his Church. There are the regulations of St. Louis, of St. Hildegardis, the enlisted interest of the Bishops of Cologne, Utrecht, and Liége, the patron-saintship of St. Amandus, St. Leonard, St. Adrian, and the Irish St. Florentius, and, moreover, the very close connection which from time immemorial monks and religious houses have maintained with brewing. In olden days they were the brewers par excellence. In Lorraine our English Benedictines of Dieulouard, who maintained themselves in their monastery near Pont-à-Mousson down to the time of the Revolution, long possessed an absolute monopoly of brewing, and were famed for their produce. And M. Reiber will have it that there are still in Germany, at the present day, des congrégations de moines brasseurs. Then there is St. Chrodegang, a near relative of Charlemagne, the great reformer of monastic orders, who particularly directed—and the rule is still observed—that monks should be allowed the option of either beer or wine. And sensible monks, a communicative [Pg 257]Carthusian confided to me the other day, prefer good beer any day to bad wine.
If, in face of all this, neither Romanists nor Protestants can say anything against beer, much less are Mussulmans in a position to do so. For Mahomet actually, though he expressly forbids wine, never says a word in prohibition of beer—thus leaving a convenient loophole to thirsty Mahommedans, of which French writers tell us that bibulous Algerians eagerly avail themselves.
From all this it will be seen that, despite teetotal disparagement, beer comes before the world, so to speak, with very respectable credentials, entitling it to a fairly good reception. Brillat-Savarin, it is true, admits to its detriment that "l'eau est la seule boisson qui apaise véritablement la soif." But "l'eau," says another French writer, M. Reiber, "est la prose des liquides, l'alcool en est la poésie." Speaking more particularly of beer, among alcoholic drinks, M. Dubrunfaut writes: "La bière occupe incontestablement le premier rang parmi les boissons hygiéniques connues." And he goes on to say that among the beer-drinking nations one finds, as a rule, manly qualities most developed—as among the English, the Germans, the Dutch, the Belgians, and the Northern French. Brillat-Savarin only objects that beer makes people stout.
Of course there is beer and beer. The wise doctors of Salerno very rightly gave particular attention to this subject—as well they might, for beer was adulterated in their days with no more scruple than it is in ours. The Minnesinger Marner, in the thirteenth century, bitterly complains that brewers make beer even without malt. There was no minnesinging to be done on[Pg 258] such drink. Then there was the manufacture of the aroma. Before there were hops—and even after—people had a violent fancy for spices, the indulgence in which was carried to such a point that the Church, meeting in Council at Worms in 868, and at Trèves in 895, felt bound to take notice of the matter, and in a special canon laid down the rule that beer spiced after the manner then prevalent should be allowed, as a luxury, only on Sundays and saints' days. What those spices were may be gathered from the following recipe for making beer, which appears to have been first published at Strassburg (from early days a cerevisian city) in 1512, and which was twice re-issued, under special approbation—namely, in 1552 and 1679. "To one pound of coloured 'sweet-root' (probably liquorice) add seven ounces of good cinnamon, four ounces of the best ginger, one ounce each of cloves, 'long' pepper, galanga, and nutmeg, half an ounce each of mace and of cardamom, and two ounces of genuine Italian saffron." Whatever might be added in the shape of malt, who would recognise in this decoction anything remotely worthy of the name of beer? It is of such stuff that Cardinal Chigi must have been thinking when he pronounced beer "infernal drink." For brewing beer the school of Salerno give the following good advice:
Non acidum sapiat cerevisia, sit bene clara.
Ex granis sit cocta bonis satis, ac veterata.
It must not, above all things, be sour. For acidity "ventriculo inimica est. Acetus nervosas offendit partes." As the Germans have it—and they ought to know—
Ein böses Weib und sauer Bier
Behüt' der Himmel dich dafür!
[Pg 259]It should be clear, because "turbida impinguat, flatus gignit, atque brevem spiritum efficit." "Bene cocta" it should be, for "male cocta ventris inflationes, tormina et colicos cruciatos generat"—which Latin speaks for itself. As for good grain, the doctors appear to prefer a mixture of barley and oats. They allow either wheat, barley, or oats. Wheat, they say, makes the most nourishing beer, but heating and astringent. Barley alone makes the beer cold and dry. A mixture of barley and oats renders it less nourishing, but also lighter on the stomach, and less confining and distending. The Germans nowadays brew beer of every conceivable grain and no-grain, even potatoes. But according to the material so is the product. Lastly, say the doctors, beer, like wine, should be old, or you will feel the effects in your stomach.
We cannot at the present period dissociate from beer the idea of hops. But it was comparatively late in history before hops were regarded as an indispensable ingredient. The Sclav nations are reported to have had them early; also the Mahommedans of the East. Haroun-al-Rashid's physician states that in his day they were given as medicine. In France, the first record of their cultivation is of the year 768, when Pepin le Bref gave some directions as to the hop-grounds belonging to the monastery of St. Denis. In Germany they are known to have been successfully cultivated about Magdeburg in 1070. We are supposed to have received them over here in 1525. In Alsace, beer-drinking country as it is, they were not cultivated till 1802. The soil being very suitable, they then made way with such rapidity that they soon crowded out[Pg 260] completely madder and woad, which had previously been considered the most profitable crops—so profitable, that from the coques de pastel (woad), which were looked upon as the emblem of prosperity and well-being, the Lauraguais, and indeed the whole country round Toulouse, came to be christened le pays de Cocagne. Hence our own word of "Cockaigne," about the derivation of which so many contradictory guesses have been made. It may be interesting to note that in Strassburg the bakers at one time used to put hops into their yeast, and that in some foreign countries the young shoots of the hop-bine furnish a favourite vegetable, dressed like asparagus.
Drinking habits are of course by far the most developed in Germany, where beer has really become the object of a cult. Blessed with a healthy thirst, which made our own poet Owen exclaim—
Si latet in vino verum, ut proverbia dicunt,
Invenit verum Teuto, vel inveniet—
the nation has seized upon beer as a second faith, "outside which there is no salvation." Fischart, indeed, in his verses bade people who must drink beer, and would not be satisfied with German wine, "go to Copenhagen; there they would find beer enough." Denmark truly was of old—we know from "Hamlet"—a grand country for drinking. But in respect of beer, in the present day, it is not "in it" with Germany. Tacitus wrote about German drinking. Emperor Charlemagne felt bound to pass a law against it. The earlier Popes, before consenting to crown a German emperor, exacted from him an affirmative reply to the standing question: "Vis sobrietatem cum Dei auxilio custodire?"[Pg 261] Of the old Palsgraves it used to be said: "Potatores sub cœlo non meliores;" and "bibere more palatino" became a byword. Maximilian I. felt called upon to pass stringent laws. In the sixteenth century Germany went by the name of "Die grossen Trinklande." And Luther, when resting from his seidels accompanying theological disputations, expressed a fear "lest this devil (of thirst) should go on tormenting Germany till the day of judgment." The modern Germans have remained true to the custom of their forefathers, and have developed it scientifically.
Um den Gerstensaft, geliebte Seelen,
Dreht sich unser ganzer Staat herum.
The whole commonwealth literally "hinges" upon beer. The Emperor has drunk it as a student at Bonn, and presumably still drinks it—in moderation. The German Chancellor, instead of the parliamentary full-dress dinners customary among ourselves, invites the members of the Diet to "beer-evenings." If a learned professor discover a new bacillus or antidotal lymph; if an African traveller annex a new province; if a statesman attain his jubilee—there is but one form of public recognition for all varieties of merit and distinction, and that is a biercommers. No doubt the great extension of university education has a great deal to do with the spread of regulated beer-drinking. The learned classes set the tone, and the many follow it.
Cerevisiam bibunt homines, animalia cætera fontes.
That has become the general motto. It sounds very filthy to hear of the astounding quantities of liquor consumed. But, in the first place, where much is drunk, it is only very light stuff. And, to make it less trying,[Pg 262] the drinkers adopt the Socratic maxim of "small cups and many," by frothing the beer up incredibly. Altogether they follow good classical rules, which it is curious to trace, and which make their symposia rather interesting. Drinking is not the end, but only the natural means for attaining hilarity. And there is a good deal of rough geniality about it. Like the ancient Greeks, these organised drinkers fix a well-recognised τρόπος τῆς πόσεως. They have their absolute ruler, the symposiarch, their accepted order of drinking, their proper scale of fines. And also, as in Greece, only too often drinking is not a voluntary act, but ἀναγκάζεσθαι, and it is made to be ἀπνευστὶ πίνειν—drinking without taking breath. There is the προπίνειν φιλοτησίας—drinking to one another—which must be answered. There are songs and jokes—though no tæniæ and, fortunately, no kisses. And the small cups are duly followed up with the large horns, the κέρατα, and the huge vessels which the Greeks called φρέατα. Nay, these modern classics even imitate the Greeks in respect of the ἅλες καὶ κύμινον. For in many places the well-salted and carawayed ἐπίπαστα forms a standing accompaniment to the liquor. And next day, if they are a trifle "foxed," they copy the Greeks in κραιπάλην κραιπάλη ἐξελαύνειν, or, as Sir John Linger calls it in better "understanded" language, they take "a hair of the same dog," with a pickled herring covered with raw onions for a companion, which is supposed to set all things right. There are beer-courts to adjudge upon disputes, there are indeterminate beer-minutes to settle the time—everything is "beer." In all this joking there is no harm. As little harm is meant to be in the missœ cerevisiales which tradition[Pg 263] has handed down from the time when monks were both the greatest brewers and also the greatest drinkers, and, probably, in their refectories and misericords made as much fun of the service over their cups as do now—or did until lately—German students. There is the genuine chanting of versicles and responses, but the words have reference to beer. This practice, I am glad to say, is now very much on the decline.
All this is scarcely surprising. We all knew it of the Germans long ago. But it is a little strange to find France once more—few people know about the first time—taking her place among beer-drinking countries and placing the honestas chopinandi among the precepts of the modern decalogue. The French are good enough to explain that they do this, not for their own gratification, but as a public service, as "saviours of society," to "rendre les mœurs gambrinales plus aimables." That may be. But the fact remains, that the annual consumption of beer per head of the population in France has now risen to 21 litres (about 14 quarts), which on the top of 119 litres of wine (however light), 20 litres of cider, and 4 litres of spirits, is a respectable allowance enough. For Germany the figures are said to be—93 litres of beer, 6 of wine, and 10 of spirits—and such spirits! France brews every year more than eight millions of hectolitres of beer, and consumes considerably more. To do this, of course it must import from abroad. And very rightly too, I should say. For though French beer may no longer deserve the description given of it by the Emperor Julian, who condemned it as "smelling strongly of the goat," there is still little enough that is really good.[Pg 264] And it is drunk out of such tiny thimbles! I suspect that there is a dodge in this. The "bocks" have grown smaller and smaller, till in some places they are mere tea-cups. But then out come the restaurateurs with their old disused "bocks," now re-christened bocks sérieux, and charge double price. That promises to make France a real brewers' paradise. But, large glasses or small, there is something about the beer which you must first get used to. Accordingly, many of those gorgeous brasseries, of genuinely German type, which seem so out of place in the Paris boulevards, are supplied, not from Tantonville or Xertigny, but from Munich or Vienna, or else from Strassburg. For, of course, the attachment which Frenchmen feel for their lost provinces had a great deal to do with their new departure in the way of a liking for beer. France, as it happens, owes some reparation to Strassburg, and more particularly to its brewers. For at various times it has treated the latter most unkindly. In the first place, the Second Empire unmercifully hastened on the hour of "Bruce," making it eleven "sharp," instead of the quarter past which had been previously allowed. This threatens never to be forgotten or forgiven. In the second place, the First Republic, though it honoured hops by assigning to them, in the place of the calendar saint, St. Omer, the patronship of the 9th of September, inflicted a very grievous injury when, in the An II. of its era, its tribunal révolutionnaire imposed a fine of 255,000 livres upon the brewing trade, as is stated in the official Livre Bleu, "pour les abus qu'ils ont pu se permettre sur leur comestibilité." The mulct is explained in this wise:—"Considérant que la soif de[Pg 265] l'or a constamment guidé les brasseurs, il les condamne à deux cents cinquante-cinq mille livres d'amende, qu'ils doivent payer dans trois jours, sous peine d'être déclarés rebelles à la loi et de voir leurs biens confisqués." There is no talk of "compensation," as among ourselves. To be sure, the bakers, with nothing against them—except it be on the score of weight—fared worse. For they were declared hostes generis humani, and fined 300,000 livres. The brewers really paid only 188,000 livres. But that was considered heavy enough. In spite of this imposition, the brewing trade in Strassburg has made tremendous strides, and continues flourishing. And very much more beer is now consumed in the city than wine. For 1878 the figures were: 121,345 hectolitres of beer and 36,583 of wine. Paris in 1881 consumed 300,000 hectolitres of beer; in 1853 only 7,000 and in 1864 still only 40,000 hectolitres. (All this beer-drinking, it will be seen, dates from 1870.) In Paris, in spite of protection, the brewing interest appears to find foreign competition rather formidable. At the time of the first revolution, a French general (Santerre), with the assistance of government subsidies, tried very hard to oust us from the market by brewing "ale" and "porter." This earned the veteran the nickname of "Le Général Mousseux." But the speculation did not pay, and had to be abandoned. Having become so popular, beer has, of course, found many fervid apologists in France. "La bière fait en ce moment le tour du monde. Mieux que tous les raisonnements et quoi qu'en disent les esprits chagrins, sa vogue prouve que la boisson en houblon est utile, que l'humanité l'apprécie et en a besoin." So says M. Reiber. "La[Pg 266] bonne bière n'est pas une boisson malsaine; elle est tonique et nourrissante." So says Dr. Tourdes.
But really this is nothing new. Old inscriptions, dating from the Gallo-Roman era, show that Pliny was correct in setting down, at his period, the Gauls as a largely beer-drinking race. They had earthenware beer-pots, some of which have been exhumed, bearing the inscription, "Cerevisariis felicitas!" An old Gallo-Roman flagon is preserved in Paris, on which is engraved—"Hospita reple lagenam cervisia!" The oldest beer-song extant is Old-French, dating from the thirteenth century. It is as follows:
Or hi purra;
La cerveyse nos chauntera
Qui que aukes en beyt
Si tel seyt comme estre doit
The prohibition which Charlemagne issued against keeping St. Stephen's Day too zealously by the consumption of beer and wine, applied to France no less than to Germany. The French were, in truth, great respecters of saints' days in a bibulous way. St. Martin's Day was with them a favourite occasion for drinking. Hence martiner still currently signifies drinking more than one ought. Another suggestive popular term is "Boire comme un Templier." France then has really only returned to her premier amour. But in doing so she has set upon it a seal of domination, which is significant, as meaning that it is not likely to be readily surrendered.
No doubt beer, having held its own so long, though much[Pg 267] assailed, will still continue to maintain its position. There is too much of human nature in man to admit of its being effectually proscribed. "Abusus non tollit usum." The same school of Salerno which praises beer as a wholesome drink adds this wise proviso:—"Hic unicum de cervisiæ usu præceptum traditur: nempe ut modice sumatur, neque ea stomachus prægravetur vel ebrietas concilietur." Sebastian Brant writes in old German:
Eyn Narr muosz vil gesoffen han,
Eyn Wyser maesslich drincken kann.
There is great virtue in the modice sumatur. The wine-trade has passed through a similar change. Though four-bottle men have died out, the wine-trade is doing better than it did in olden days. So it will probably be with beer. However temperance advocates may regret it, it is not to be got rid of by railing. In truth it is now indeed making le tour du monde. And, unless mankind changes its character altogether, it will probably go on drinking—more or less modice—to the end of the chapter, a beverage which stands commended by so exemplary a Father of the Church as the whilom Bishop of Bath and Wells, Polydore Virgil, who pronounces it
Potus tum salubris tum jucundus.
 Blackwood's Magazine, August, 1894.
 The church encloses, in addition to one of the "true" pebbles with which was stoned, says M. Bellot-Herment, the chronicler of Bar, "St Etienne, curé de Gamaliel, bourg du diocèse de Jerusalem," that boldly original sculpture from the chisel of the great Lorrain artist, Ligier Richier, whom we so undeservedly ignore, the famous "Squelette"—the mere name of which frightened Dibdin away, as he himself relates. Durival terms this sculpture "une affreuse beauté"—but "beauté" it undoubtedly is.
 Patriotic Frenchmen derive this name from the Latin fascinatio. But quite evidently it is a gallicised form of the German fastnacht, which in Alsace is pronounced fàsenacht, or very nearly fàsenocht; in a French mouth it would naturally become faschinottes.
 Blackwood's Magazine, June, 1891.
 National Review, February, 1892.
 Gentleman's Magazine, February, 1893.
 See the Memoirs of the Family of Taaffe, p. 13.
 Westminster Review, May, 1892.
 National Review, May, 1892.
 Gentleman's Magazine, February, 1894.
 The "English" student who took the second prize on the occasion must, I think, have been Edmund Arnold. At any rate, I can discover no other English name on the register. English students were still few in those days.
 Gentleman's Magazine, March, 1891.
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