« ПредишнаНапред »
CHAP, from it, hypocritically throwing himself into an agony of tears — plotting alike against his present colleagues, and the party whom he pretended to be about to join — and appearing by turns to be devoted to his old royal master — to the Queen — to the Prince — to the Tories, and to the Whigs — ready to betray them all. * However much this letter might strengthen the suspicions entertained by the Prince's friends of Thurlow's sincerity, it did not induce them to break off the treaty with him, and, if he supported them in the impending discussions in parliament, the Great Seal was to be his.
Mr. Pitt The King being confined at Windsor, the Queen and the Thurlow's Prince in opposite interests, had both taken up their residence duplicity, here, and here Mr. Pitt and the Ministers from time to time held their councils. These arrangements were highly convenient to Thurlow, for by going through cloisters and dark corridors to different sets of apartments in the Castle, he could hold a private conference with either party without letting it be known that he communicated with the other. Mr. Pitt was at first duped by such artifices, but suddenly came to the full knowledge of his colleague's perfidy. The exact circumstances of the discovery are variously related, although all accounts agree in stating that it took place at a meeting of the Ministers in Windsor Castle, and that it arose from a mistake that the Chancellor made respecting his hat.
* It must be admitted that Lord Loughborough is powerfully corroborated by the very picturesque account we have of *' the weeping scene" from Miss Burney, who, then in attendance on the Queen, actually witnessed it: "It was decreed that the King should be seen both by the Chancellor and Mr. Pitt. The Chancellor went into his presence with a trcmour such as before he had been only accustomed to inspire; and when he came out he was so extremely affected by the state in which he saw his royal master and patron, that the tears ran down bis cheeks, and his feet had difficulty to support him. Mr. Pitt was more composed, but expressed his grief with so much respect and attachment, that it added new weight to the universal admiration with which he is here beheld." — Madame <fArblay's Diary, part vii. 338.
The Chancellor seems to have possessed powers of acting grief not inferior to those of the player in Hamlet, who —
"But in a fiction, in a dream of passion,
Some say that he entered the room, having under his arm Chap. the Prince's hat, whioh he had in the hurry carried off from CLXthe Prince's closet instead of his own; — others, that he I "c
. Story of
walked into the room without a hat, and that soon after one ThurW of the Prince's pages brought him his own hat, saying that J^'yed'hy his Lordship had left it behind when he took leave of his his hatRoyal Highness; —and others, that entering without his hat, and being reminded of it, he immediately said, he supposed he must have left it in another part of the Castle, where he had been paying a visit — whereupon the looks of those present immediately made him conscious of the disclosure he had made.* But I have received the following account of the discovery from a quarter entitled to the most implicit credit: — " When a Council was to be held at Windsor to determine the course which Ministers should pursue, Thurlow had been there some time before any of his colleagues arrived. He was to be brought back to London by one of them, and the moment of departure being come, the Chancellor's hat was no where to be found. After a fruitless search in the apartment where the Council had been held, a page came with the hat in his hand, saying aloud, and with great naivete, 'My Lord, I found it in the closet of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales!' The other Ministers were still in the Hall, and Thurlow's confusion corroborated the inference which they drew."
Mr. Pitt, though now fully aware of his designs, could Mr. Pitt not immediately throw him off, and still seemed to the public ^JtJ^„gWS cordially to co-operate with him,—but thenceforth withdrew deuce from all confidence from him, and intrusted to Lord Camden the J^'J^' conduct in the House of Lords of all the measures for the p'°y* Lord establishment of the Regency. carry " 0
The first debate upon the subject was when, after the ex- thr°ugh the animation of the physicians, proving the King's incapacity for a Kcpersonally to exercise the functions of government, Lord eency
Dec. 11. 1788.
Camden moved for a committee to search for precedents.
Lord Loughborough, on whose legal and constitutional ad- Debate on
vice the Whigs acted, now reprobated the doctrine broached ,Ien's moTM
• Moore's Life of Sheridan, ii. 31.; Law. Mag. vii. 73, 74.
tion for a
Thurlow's temporising speech.
in the other House, "that the Prince of Wales, the heir apparent to the throne, had no more right to take upon himself the government, during the continuance of the unhappy malady which incapacitated his Majesty, than any other individual subject." He contended strenuously that the regency was not elective; that the two Houses could not interfere with the appointment of the person to exercise the functions of royalty, except upon a total subversion of the government, as at the Revolution, or upon the failure of the royal line, by the King dying without an heir ; that as the two Houses at present confessedly could not pass a turnpike act, much less could they pass an act which might produce a change of the dynasty to fill the throne; and that the heir apparent had a right, during the interruption of the personal exercise of the royal authority, to assume the reins of government — not rashly or violently — but on the authentic notification to him by the two Houses of his Majesty's unfortunate incapacity.
Thurlow, on this occasion, was sorely perplexed as to the course he should pursue. Although Dr. Willis gave hopes of the King's speedy recovery, the general opinion at this time was that his malady was incurable — in which case the Prince of Wales must ere long be Regent, with all the patronage of the Crown. He probably was inclined to assert the Prince's right in still more peremptory terms, and to outbid his rival for the Prince's favour. But he could not do so without openly breaking with Mr. Pitt, who had the entire confidence of the Queen, and was sure to be more powerful than ever if his Majesty should indeed be restored. He therefore contented himself, for the present, with appearing to oppose — but opposing very gently — Lord Loughborough's arguments, saying, "that the doctrine of the Prince's right was new; that the discussion was premature; that the question ought not to be in any degree preoccupied; that such a debate would only afford a subject for a frivolous paragraph in a newspaper; that their Lordships had begun at the wrong end, trying to draw the conclusion before they had settled the premises; that no objection could possibly be made to the motion of the President of the Council for a committee to inquire; and that, it being impossible to separate Chap. the natural and political character and capacity of the King, while the crown remained firmly fixed on his Majesty's head, the appointment of a Regent must prove a consummation beyond expression difficult." * The motion was carried without a division, and for a little while longer Thurlow contrived to keep on decent terms with both parties, giving each hopes of his support and enjoying the chance of the favour of both. But this double-dealing led Informahim daily into greater perplexities: he saw the danger in a LOTdThur protracted struggle of being himself disgraced which ever low of the side might prosper, and it is said that he had exclusive in- ^P/0 formation of some symptoms in his Majesty's health, which covery. justified a more probable hope of his recovery than had been hitherto entertained.
Accordingly the next time the subject was brought forward Dec. is. in the House of Lords, the Duke of York having made a ^p'^t
menting the dreadful calamity which had fallen upon the Ket ,iis, royal family and upon the nation, — the Lord Chancellor left vem' the woolsack seemingly in a state of great emotion, and delivered a most pathetic address to the House. His voice, broken at first, recovered its clearness, — but this was from the relief afforded to him by a flood of tears. He declared his fixed and unalterable resolution to stand by a Sovereign who, through a reign of twenty-seven years, had proved his sacred regard to the principles which seated his family on the British throne. He at last worked himself up to this celebrated climax: — " A noble Viscount (Stormont) has, in an eloquent and energetic manner, expressed his feelings on the present melancholy situation of his Majesty, — feelings rendered more poignant from the noble Viscount's having been in habits of personally receiving marks of indulgence and kindness from his suffering Sovereign. My own sorrow, my Lords, is aggravated by the same cause. My debt of gratitude is indeed ample for the many favours which have been
* 27 Pari. Hist. 672.
CHAP, graciously conferred upon me by his Majesty; And When I
C ' V FORGET MY SOVEREIGN, MAY MY GOD FORGET ME!" *
Wilkes's "God Forget You !" muttered Wilkes, who happened then retort to De seated on the steps of the throne,—eying him askance with his inhuman squint and demoniac grin, — " God FORGET You! He'll See You D D First."
Dec. 23. When the resolution to which the Commons had agreed Thurlow's was moved, "That it is the right and duty of the Lords
attack on . , ° J
Lord Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons of Great Britain, now borou"h for assemD'ed, and lawfully, fully, and freely representing all the supporting estates of the people of this realm, to provide the means of oftiieghtS supplying the defect of the personal exercise of the royal Prince. authority, arising from his Majesty's indisposition, in such manner as the exigency of the case may appear to them to require," and Lord Rawdon (afterwards Marquis of Hastings) having moved an amendment, " That an humble address be presented to his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, praying his Royal Highness to take upon himself, as sole Regent, the administration of the executive government in the King's name during his Majesty's indisposition," Thurlow, without any reserve, supported the resolution, and inveighed against the amendment. Knowing well that it had been framed very carefully by Lord Loughborough, who had spoken ably in defence of it, he said, "I am glad to think that the words of this amendment cannot have been supplied by the noble and learned Lord, the Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, for they are not only irreconcileable with the • arguments of that great Magistrate, but they convey no dis
tinct or precise meaning whatever. I wish that some one, who professes to understand them, had explained their meaning, and given us something like a reason to show their propriety. I beg to know, what is the meaning of the term 'regent?' Where shall I see it defined? in what lawbook, or in what statute? I have heard of 'Grand Justiciars,' of ' Custodes Regni? of 'Lieutenants for the King,' of 'Guardians,' of 'Protectors,' of 'Lords Justices;' but I know nothing of the office or functions of a 'Regent.' To what end, then, would it be to ask the Prince to take upon
• 27 Pari. Hist. 680.; Ann. Reg. 1789, p. 125.