Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

till they had exhausted all the means which private inquiry could have afforded, to ascertain its falsehood or its truth.

And when it appears that it was not thought necessary, upon the first statement of it, as the Commissioners seem to have imagined, forthwith to transmit it to your Majesty, but it was retained for near six montlis, from the beginning of December till near the end of May. What is due to myself obliges me to state, that if there had but been, in that interval, half the industry employed to remove suspicions which was exerted to raise them, there would never have existed a necessity for troubling your Majesty with this charge at all. I beg to be understood as imputing this solely to the advice given to his Royal Highness. He must, of necessity, have left the detail and the determination upon this business to others. And it is evident to me, from what I now know, that his Royal Highness was not fairly dealt with; that material information was obtained, to disprove part of the case against me, which, not appearing in the declarations that were transmitted to your Majesty, I conclude was never communicated to his Royal Highness.

""

Feeling, Sire, strongly, that I have much to complain of, that this foul charge should have been so readily credited to my great prejudice, as to have occasioned that advice to be given which recommended the transmission of it to your Majesty, who, once formally in possession of it, could not fail to subject it to some inquiry. I have dwelt, perhaps, at a tedious length, in disputing the propriety of the Commissioner's judg ment, in thus approving the course which was pursued. And, looking to the event, and all the circumstances connected with it, perhaps I have reason to rejoice that the Inquiry has taken place; for, if three y years concealment of my supposed crime could not impeach the credit of my accusers, three times that period might, perhaps, be thought to have left that credit still unimpaired. And, had the false charge been de layed till death had taken away the real parents of the child, which Lady Douglas charges to be mine; if time had deprived me of those servants and attendants who have been able so fully to disprove the fact of my alleged pregnancy, I know not where

電子

I could have found the means of disproving facts and charges so falsely, so confidently,

and positively sworn to, as those to which Lady Douglas has attested.

Following, as I proposed, the course taken in the Report, I next come to that part of it to which, unquestionably, I must recur with the greatest satisfaction, because it is that part which so completely absolves me of every possibly suspicion upon the two material charges of pregnancy and childbirth.

The Commissioners staté in their Report*, that they began by examining "on oath the two principal informants, Sir John and Lady Douglas, who both positively swore, the former to his having observed the fact of pregnancy; and the latter to all the important particulars contained in her former declaration, and above referred to †. Their examinations are annexed to the Report, and are circumstantial and positive." The most material of “the allegations, into the truth of which they had been directed to inquire, being thus far supported by the oath of the parties from whom they had proceeded," they state, "that they felt it their duty to follow up the Inquiry by the examination of such other persons as they judged best able to afford them information as to the facts in question." "We thought it," they say, "beyond all doubt, that in this course of Inquiry many particulars must be learnt which would be necessarily conclusive on the truth or falehood of these declarations; so many persons must have been witnesses to the appearances of an actual existing pregnancy, so many circumstances must have been attendant upon a real delivery, and difficulties so numerous and insur

See Report, p. 2.

[ocr errors]

See Appendix (A.)

mountable must have been involved in any attempt to account for the infant in question, as the child of another woman, if it had been, in fact, the child of the Princess, that we entertained a full and confident expectation of arriving at complete proof, either in the affirmative, or negative on this part of the subject." "This expectation," they proceed to state, " was not disappointed. We are happy to declare to your Majesty our perfect conviction that there is no foundation whatever for believing that the child now with the Princess is the child of her Royal Highness, or that she was delivered of any child in the year 1802; nor has any thing appeared to us which would warrant the belief that she was pregnant in that year, or at any other period within the compass of our inquiries."-They then proceed to refer to the circumstantial evidence, by which they state that it was proved that the child was, beyond all doubt, born in Brownlow-street Hospital, on 11th July, 1802, of the body of Sophia Austin, and brought to my house in the month of November following.-"Neither should we," they add, “be more warranted in expressing any doubt respecting the alleged pregnancy of the Princess, as stated in the original declarations; a fact so fully contradicted, and by so many witnesses, to whom, if true, it must in various ways have been known, that we cannot think it entitled to the smallest credit." Then, after stating that they have annexed the depositions from which they have collected these opinions, they add, "We humbly offer to your Majesty our clear and unanimous judgment upon them, formed on full deliberation, and pronounced without hesitation, on the result of the whole Inquiry."

These two most important facts, therefore, which are charged against me, being so fully and satisfactorily disposed of, by the unanimous and clear judgment of the Commissioners, being so fully and completely disproved by the evidence which the Commissioners collected, I might, perhaps, in your Majesty's judgment, appear well justified in passing them by without any observation of mine. But though the observations which I shall make shall be very few, yet I cannot forbear just dwelling upon this parť of the case for a few minutes; because, if I do not much deceive myself, upon every principle which can govern the human mind, in the investigation of the truth of any charge, the fate of this part of the accusation must have decisive weight upon the determination of the remainder. I therefore must beg to remark, that Sir John Douglas swears to my having appeared, some time after our acquaintance had commenced, to be with child, and that one day I leaned on the sofa, and put my hand upon my stomach, and said, “ Sir John, I shall never be Queen of England ;" and he said, "Not if you don't deserve it," and I seemed angry at first.

i

This conversation, I apprehend, if it has the least relation to the subject on which Sir John was examined, must be given for the purpose of insinuating that I made an allusion to my pregnancy, as if there was a sort of understanding between him and me upon the subject, and that he made me angry by an expression which implied, that what I alluded to would forfeit my right to be Queen of England. If this is not the meaning which Sir John intends to be annexed to this conversation, I am perfectly at a loss to conceive what he can intend it to convey. Whether at any time, when I may have felt myself unwell, I may have used the expression which he here imputes to me, my memory will not enable me, with the least degree of certainty, to state. The words themselves seem to me to be perfectly innocent; and the action of laying my hand upon my breast, if occasioned by any sense of internal pain at the moment, is neither unnatural, nor, as it appears to me, in any way censurable. But that I could have used these words, intending to convey to Sir John Douglas the meaning, which I suppose

#

See Appendix (A.)

him to insinuate, surpasses all human credulity to believe. I could not, however, forbear to notice this passage in Sir John's examination, because it must serve to demonstrate to your Majesty, how words in themselves most innocent are endeavoured to be tortured, by being brought into the context with his opinion of my pregnancy, to convey a meaning most contrary to that, which I could by possibility have intended to convey, but which it was necessary that he should impute to me, to give the better colour to this false accusation.

A

As to Sir John Douglas, however, when he swears to the appearance of my pregnancy, he possibly might be only mistaken. Not that that mistake will excuse or diminish the guilt of so scaudalous a falsehood upon oath, but for Lady Douglas there cannot be even such an excuse. Independent of all those extravagant confessions which she falsely represents me to have made, she states, upon her own observation and knowledge, that I was pregnant in the year 1802. Now, in the habits of intercourse and intimacy with which I certainly did live with her, at that time, she could not be mistaken as to that fact. It is impossible, therefore, that in swearing positively to that fact, which is so positively disproved, she can fail to appear to your Majesty to be wilfully and deliberately foresworn.

As to the conversations which she asserts to have passed between us, I am well aware. that those who prefer her word to mine, will not be satisfied to disbelieve her upon my bare denial; nor, perhaps, upon the improbability and extravagance of the supposed conversations themselves. But as to the facts of pregnancy and delivery, which are proved to be false, in the words of the Report, "by so many witnesses, to whom, if true, they must in various ways have been known," no person living can doubt that the crime of adultery and treason, as proved by those facts, has been attempted to be fixed upon me by the deliberate and wilful falsehood of this my most forward accuser. And when it is once established, as it is, that my pregnancy and delivery are all Sir John and Lady Douglas's invention, I should imagine that my confessions of a pregnancy which never existed; my confession of a delivery which never took place; my confession of having suckled a child which I never bore, will hardly be believed upon the credit of her testimony. The credit of Lady Douglas, therefore, being thus destroyed, I trust your Majesty will think that I ought to scorn to answer to any thing which her examination may contain, except so far as there may appear to be any additional and concurrent evidence to support it.

This brings me to the remaining part of the Report, which I read, I do assure your Majesty, with a degree of astonishment and surprise that I know not how to express. How the Commissioners could, upon such evidence, from such witnesses, upon such an information, and in such an ex parte proceeding, before I had the possibility of being heard, not only suffer themselves to form such an opinion, but to report it to your Majesty, with all the weight and authority of their great names, I am perfectly at a loss to conceive. Their great official and judicial occupations, no doubt, prevented that full attention to the subject which it required. But I am not surely without just grounds of complaint, if they proceeded to pronounce an opinion upon my character, without all that consideration and attention which the importance of it to the peace of your Majesty's mind, to the honour of your Royal Family, and the reputation of the Princess of Wales, seem indispensably to have demanded.

In the part of the Report already referred to, the particulars of the charge, exclusive of those two important facts, which have been so satisfactorily disposed of, are, as I have already observed, variously described by the Commissioners, as " matters of great impropriety and indecency of behaviour;" as "other particulars in themselves extremely suspicious, and still more so, when connected with the assertions already men

tioned; and as "points of the same nature, though coming to a much less extent." But they do not become the subject of particular attention in the Report, till after the Commissioners had concluded that part of it, in which they give so decisive an opinion against the truth of the charge upon the two material facts. They then proceed to state

"That they cannot close their Report there," much as they could wish it; "that besides the allegations of the pregnancy and delivery of the Princess, those declarations, on the whole of which your Majesty had required their Inquiry and Report, contain other particulars respecting the conduct of her Royal Highness, such as must, espe cially considering her exalted rank and station, necessarily give occasion to very unfavourable interpretations. That from various depositions and proofs annexed to their Report, particularly from the examination of Robert Bidgood, W. Cole, F. Lloyd, and Mrs. Lisle, several strong circumstances of this description have been positively sworn to by witnesses who cannot, in the judgment of the Commissioners, be suspected of any unfavourable bias, and whose veracity in THIS REPECT they had seen no ground to question." They then state, that "on the precise bearing and effect of the facts, thus appearing, it is not for them to decide; these they submit to your Majesty's wisdom. But they conceive it to be their duty to report on this part of the Inquiry as distinctly as on the former facts, that as, on the one hand, the facts of pregnancy and delivery are, in their minds, satisfactorily disproved, so, on the other hand, they think that the circumstances to which they now refer, particularly those stated to have passed between her Royal Highness and Captain Manby, must be credited until they shall receive some decisive contradiction, and, if true, are justly entitled to the most serious consideration."

Your Majesty will not fail to observe that the Commissioners have entered into the examination of this part of the case, and have reported upon it, not merely as evidence in confirmation of the charges of pregnancy and delivery, which they have completely negatived and disposed of, but as containing substantive matters of charge in itself; that they consider it, indeed, as relating to points "of the same nature, but going to a much less extent;" not, therefore, as constituting actual crime, but as amounting to "improprieties and indecencies of behaviour, aggravated by the exalted rank which I hold," as "occasioning unfavourable interpretations," and as "entitled to the most serious consideration." And when they also state that it is not for them to decide on their precise bearing and effect, I think I am justified in concluding, that they could not class them under any known head of crime; as, in that case, upon their bearing, and effect they would not have been fully competent to have pronounced. *

I have, to a degree, already stated to your Majesty the unprecedented hardship to which I conceive myself to have been exposed, by this ex parte Inquiry into the decorum of my private conduct. I have already stated the prejudice done to my character by this recorded censure, from which I can have no appeal; and I press these considerations no further upon your Majesty, at present, than to point out, in passing this part of the Report, the just foundations which it affords me for making the complaint.

Your Majesty will also, I am persuaded, not fail to remark the strange obscurity and reserve, the mysterious darkness, with which the Report here expresses itself; and every one must feel how this aggravates the severity and cruelty of the censure, by rendering it impossible distinctly and specifically to meet it. The Commissioners state, indeed, that some things are proved against me, which must be credited till they shall receive a decisive contradiction, but what those things are they do not state; they are "particulars and circumstances which, especially considering my exalted rank, must give occasion to the most unfavourable interpretations; they are several strong circumstances

[ocr errors]

of this description; they are, if true, justly deserving of most serious consideration;"
and they "must be credited till decidedly contradicted." But what are these circum-
stances? What are these deeds without a name? Was there ever a charge so framed ?
Was ever any one put to answer any charge, and decidedly to contradict it, or submit
to have it credited against him, which was conceived in such terms, without the means
of ascertaining what these things are, except as conjecture may enable me to surmise,
to what parts of the examinations of the four witnesses, on whom they particularly
rely, they attach the importance and the weight which seem to them to justify these
dark and ambiguous censures on my conduct? But such as they are, and whatever
they may be, they must, your Majesty is told, be credited, unless they are decidedły
contradicted.

Circumstances, respecting Captain Manby, indeed are particularized; but referring to the depositions which apply to him, they contain much matter of opinion, of hearsay, of suspicion. Are these hearsays, are these opinions, are these suspicions and conjectures of these witnesses to be believed against me, unless decidedly contradicted? How can I decidedly contradict another person's opinion? I may reason against its justice, but how can I contradict it? Or how can I decidedly contradict any thing which is -not precisely specified, nor distinctly known to me ?

Your Majesty will also observe, that the Report states that it is not for the Commissioners to decide upon the bearing and effect of these facts; these are left for your Majesty's decision; but they add, that if true, they are justly entitled to the most serious consideration. I cannot, Sire, but collect from these passages an intimation, that some further proceedings may be meditated; and, perhaps, if I acted with perfect prudence, seeing how much reason I have to fear, from the fabrications of falsehood, I ought to have waited till I knew what course, civil or criminal, your Majesty might be advised to pursue, before I offered any observations or answer. To this alternative, however, I am driven: I must either remain silent, and reserve my defence, leaving the imputation to operate most injuriously and fatally to my character; or I must, by entering into a defence against so extended a charge, expose myself with much greater hazard to any future attacks; but the fear of possible danger, to arise from the perverted interpretation of my answer, cannot induce me to acquiesce, under the certain mischief of the unjust censure and judgment which stands against me, as it were, recorded in this Report. I shall therefore, at whatever hazard, proceed to submit to your Majesty, in whose justice I have the most satisfactory reliance, my answer and my observations upon this part of the case.

And here, Sire, I cannot forbear again presuming to state to your Majesty, that it is not a little hard that the Commissioners (who state, in the beginning of their Report, that certain particulars, in themselves extremely suspicious, were, in the judgment which they had formed upon them, before they entered into the particulars of the Inquiry, rendered still more suspicious, from being connected with the assertion of pregnancy and delivery) should have made no observation upon the degree in which that suspicion must be proportionably abated, when those assertions of pregnancy and delivery have been completely falsified and disproved; that they should make no remark upon the fact; that all the witnesses (with the exception of Mrs. Lisle) on whom they specifically rely, were, every one of them, brought forward by the principal informers, for the purpose of supporting the false statement of Lady Douglas; that they are the witnesses therefore of persons, whom, after the complete falsification of their charge, I am justified in describing as conspirators, who have been detected in supporting their conspiracy by their own perjury. And surely where a conspiracy, to fix a charge upon an individual, has been plainly detected, the witnesses of those who have been so de

[ocr errors]
« PoprzedniaDalej »