« PoprzedniaDalej »
GEORGE THE FOURTH.
[From 1762 to 1780.]
AMONGST the royal houses of Europe, there is not one which can boast of a more illustrious line of ancestors than that which, fortunately for the liberty and independence of their subjects, is placed on the throne of Britain. The German genealogists suppose it to have descended through females from the Saxon family, so renowned in the early periods of our history, and to which the majority of the royal families of Europe proudly ascribe their pedigrees. On the other hand, antiquarians have traced the descent of the house of Brunswick to those ages that immediately succeeded the subversion of the Roman empire, and reckon, amongst the founders of the family, Caius Etius, a noble Roman who flourished in the latter part of the fourth century, and who was a relation of the Emperor Augustus. Pharamond, duke of the Franks, and many other renowned chieftains, whose names are consecrated in the annals of the earlier periods of modern European history, may be also considered as the progenitors of the illustrious house of Brunswick, although their immediate history is enveloped in the obscurity of the darker ages. The representative of all these noble houses, Henry the Lion, duke of Brunswick, married Maud, the daughter of Henry II. king of England, who was lineally descended from Egbert, the first king of England; and, consequently, in his veins flowed the blood of Alfred the Great, and of the pure Saxon race of English Sovereigns.
From George I., and his father the elector of Hanover, we ascend in a clear and regular series to the first duke of Brunswick and Lunenburg, who received his investiture from
Frederick II., about the middle of the thirteenth century. If their ample possessions had been the gift of the Emperor to some adventurous soldier, or to some faithful client, we might be content with the antiquity and lustre of a noble race, which had been enrolled nearly six hundred years amongst the princes of Germany; but our ideas are exalted, and our prospect is enlarged by the discovery, that the first duke of Brunswick was rather degraded than adorned by his new titles, since it imposed the duties of feudal service on the free and patrimonial estate, which alone had been saved in the shipwreck of the more splendid fortunes of his house. His ancestors had been invested with the powerful duchies of Bavaria and Saxony, which extended far beyond the limits laid down in modern geography; for, from the Baltic sea to the confines of Rome, they were either obeyed or feared; and in the quarrels of the Guelphs and Ghibelines, the former appellation was derived from the name of their progenitors in the female line. The genuine masculine descent, however, of the princes of Brunswick must be explored beyond the Alps; for the venerable tree which has since overshadowed Germany and Britain was planted in the Italian soil. As far as our light can reach, we discover the first founders of the race in the Marquesses of Este, of Liguria, and, perhaps, of Tuscany. In the eleventh century, the primitive stem was divided into two branches; the elder migrated to the banks of the Danube and the Elbe; the other more humbly adhered to the neighbourhood of the Adriatic. The dukes of Brunswick and the kings of Great Britain are the descendants of the first; the dukes of Ferrara and Modena were the offspring of the second.
Passing by the intermediate genealogies of the house of Brunswick, through the course of the middle centuries, as not generally interesting to the majority of our readers, it would only be necessary very briefly to show in what way arose the proximity of blood, which, in the early part of the last century, caused the Brunswick line to be called to the throne of these kingdoms. The marriage of Henry VII. with Elizabeth, daughter of Edward IV., in 1485, by uniting the pretensions of the rival houses of York and Lancaster, put an end to the factions that had for so many reigns desolated England, and
stained the land with the blood of the flower of its princes, nobility, and gentry. Henry left issue by this marriage a son, Henry VIII., and a daughter, married to James IV., king of Scotland. On the failure of the line of Tudor, in the person of queen Elizabeth, James VI. of Scotland, and first of that name in England, succeeded, as matter of right, to the crown, being descended, in the third generation, from Henry VII. and Elizabeth of York, and, consequently, uniting in his own person all the claims of the different lines that had successively wielded the sceptre of England.
Elizabeth, daughter of James I., married Frederic, Elector Palatine, and afterwards king of Bohemia. By this prince she had a daughter, Sophia, married to Ernestus, elector of Hanover, and representative of the house of Brunswick, Hanover, Lunenburg, Wolfenbüttel, Zelle, &c., whose posterity, by virtue of the Act of Settlement, now fills the throne of Great Britain.
Those who augured a prosperous reign to George III., from the circumstance of his ascending the throne on the anniversary of the victory of Agincourt, deemed it an equally auspicious circumstance, that an heir apparent should be born on the forty-eighth anniversary of the accession of the house of Brunswick. We will not stop to discuss the merits of these auguries, considering them in the same light as we do the geese of the Roman augurs, and especially as the pages of history are open to every one to determine their truth or fallacy; but in regard to the battle of Agincourt, if the prophecy had run that the reign of George III. was to be distinguished by the most ruinous wars, in one of which the American possessions were to be lost for ever to the British crown, and in another of which a national debt was to be accumulated, which sits as an exterminating incubus on the prosperity and energies of the nation, we consider that it would be rather a difficult task for the sapient augurs to prove that they were not in an error, when they drew their prophecy of the glory of the reign of George III. from his having ascended the throne on the anni versary of the battle of Agincourt.
The marriage of George III, with the princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg Strelitz took place on the 8th September, 1761
and on the 12th August, 1762, his late majesty, George IV., was born.
Agreeably to the state etiquette, which has always been observed on the accouchement of the queen of England, ever since the birth of the son, or pretended son of James II., the great officers of state are always summoned to attend the birth of a royal infant; and, on this occasion, there were present, the Princess Dowager of Wales, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Duke of Devonshire, the Duke of Rutland; the Lords Hardwicke, Huntingdon, Talbot, Halifax, Bute, Masham, and Cantalupe, and all the ladies of the bed-chamber and the maids of honour. The whole party assembled in a room adjoining to that of the Queen, having the door open leading into it-the Lords arranging themselves at the greatest possible distance the Ladies having no other restriction placed upon them, than to preserve a solemn silence, the accomplishment of which was a task of almost insuperable difficulty. Delicacy had, in those days, so far the ascendancy, that the obstetrical art was principally practised by females, and, on this occasion, the Queen was delivered by Mrs. Stephen, Dr. Hunter being in attendance amongst the ladies of the bed-chamber and maids of honour, in case of his professional assistance being required.
Her Majesty was delivered exactly at twenty-four minutes after seven o'clock, P. M., having been in labour above two hours. A messenger was immediately despatched to the king with the pleasing intelligence, and so delighted was his Majesty with the news, that he presented the bearer of it with 5001,
The privy council assembled with all possible despatch, and it was ordered that a form of prayer for the Queen's safe delivery should be prepared by his Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury, to be used within the Bills of Mortality on the following Sunday, and throughout the King's dominions the Sunday after it had been received by the respective
Nothing can mark more strongly the character of the age, than the periodical publications that were put forth on this occasion, The Queen refused all medical assistance from
the other sex, and was attended by a Mrs. Stephen. The obstetric science was then but faintly understood amongst us, for Dr. Denman, the celebrated father of the present common-sergeant of London, had not written his famous work on midwifery; and reference was always made to the ancients from Aristotle to Galen, and from him to the doctors of the Sorbonne. Hence the press had teemed with numerous speculations or rather prophecies upon her Majesty, some not very delicate; and whilst a few denied her being enceinte, others entered into peripherical phenomena, and pretended to predict the sex and future destinies of the child. Mrs. Draper, who was the royal nurse, had published a pamphlet upon the subject; but such matter would not be tolerated amongst us at present, and we must submiss such subjects as features of an age gone by. Slander was mixed up with these publications; and when the Queen appeared at the installation of the Garter, at St. George's Hall, Windsor Castle, four weeks after her accouchement, several violent articles were written upon the indelicacy of so early an appearance; whilst she, on the other hand, was defended by her friends, upon the plea of the customs of her country being different from those of England. A man who then ruled London, with respect to opinion, as powerfully as the king himself, the Rev. Mr. Simpson, preached against the Queen's indelicacy; but he was answered in a pamphlet by the Rev. Dr. Vandergucht, who cited all that could be found upon the subject from the Bible: and although any quotation of that description was then omnipotent, still the doctor's Dutch name was mistaken by the vulgar for German-he was considered as a partisan of the Germans, and met with very severe usage from the populace.
The birth of the Prince diffused a general joy throughout the nation, and congratulatory addresses were voted to their Majesties by both Houses of Parliament, by the city of London, the two Universities, and the other great bodies corporate of the kingdom. We shall not, however, occupy our pages with the transcription of any of these addresses, for considered as mere matters of form they are unworthy of notice, and as the vehicles of the most fulsome adulation and bombastic