Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

66

[ocr errors]

There could not have been a fitter king of his epoch than Charles II. · He was a thorough man of pleasure, good-natured, affable, and witty, but careless, selfish, cynical, and heartless. He openly kept concubines, and owned a troop of bastards. “ Your Majesty,” said a flatterer to him, " is the father of your people.” “Of a good many of them," was his reply, “I believe I am.” When treating with him was suggested, Cromwell replied, “ He is so damnably debauched that he would ruin us all.” No mean section of British aristocracy owed its origin to Charles's seraglio. Perhaps he and the other royal libertines of these times, as it was their doom to marry ugly princesses for the purpose of begetting heirs, might be partly excused if they kept pretty mistresses for love. Charles had to marry a Portuguese princess who, he said, was like a bat; yet, if he had been a gentleman, as some pretend, he would not have forced his mistress on the society of his wife. He painted his own character as a king well when, being worried by the inquiries of parliament into his scandalous finance, he said that he did not wish to sit like the grand Turk bowstringing people, but that he objected to have a set of fellows prying into his affairs. The Tory Johnson pronounced him a very good king. In a certain sense he was ; for had a respectable bigot and absolutist, attentive to business and loyal to the Anglican church, been in Charles's place, with the tide of loyalty running so high, he might have extinguished the liberties of England.

At his side Charles had his brother James, Duke of York, an active and aggressive, while Charles was a lazy, absolutist ; an avowed, while Charles was a secret, convert to catholicism ; a bigot, while Charles, if not at heart a sceptic, was indifferent about religion. The chief minister of the crown during the first years of the reign was Hyde, Charles's political tutor, and made at his coronation Earl of Clarendon, the author of that picturesque and stately narrative classed by Hallam among histories to be read for the delight which they afford us by their literary beauty without reference to their truth. Clarendon has veiled the fact that he was a reformer in the first days of the Long Parliament, when he almost certainly voted for the attainder of Strafford. He was in the highest degree respectable, though not incapable of countenancing a plot for the assassination of a regicide Protector. His ideal was the rule of a monarch with a loyal and obedient parliament, as a necessary support of which he was bent on restoring the Anglican church and hierarchy to the plenitude of their wealth and privilege. Nor did he err in thinking that a clergy, richly endowed and dependent on the state, would, with ritualism and orthodoxy, be the bulwark of monarchical power. Hyde had a colleague in Southampton, a thoroughly upright and honourable gentleman, the most moderate of loyalists and a staunch upholder of indemnity. Ormonde, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, was another man of the same school. All three were men of a bygone, serious, religious, and, in the eyes of Restoration rakes and courtiers, antiquated generation. Southampton's influence was not enough felt. He seems to have been wanting in force, perhaps from the weakness of his health.

The time was propitious to absolutist designs. The monarchy of Louis XIV. was rising like the sun in its power and magnificence, and was holding forth to all kings an example of unrestricted rule, awakening within them a sense of their divinity, and giving new life to the monarchical as well as to the catholic cause. The Stuart brothers, having long lived in France, and as refugees from a republic, were thoroughly imbued with the idea of French monarchy and prepared to look up

to the French monarch as their cynosure and the patron of their interest.

The Convention Parliament, in restoring the king, had stipulated for a general indemnity, from which, however, the regicides were excepted. Ten of these at once, and 1660 three more, caught afterwards in Holland, suffered the penalties of treason in their most barbarous form, while a number of others were imprisoned for life or deprived of civil rights. These men had no doubt taken their lives in their hands. They had no warrant but their conviction and their cause. Confident in the goodness of those warrants, such as were put to death met their fate like martyrs. “Take notice,” said Harrison, the valiant soldier and visionary of the Fifth Monarchy, “that for being instrumental in that cause and interest of the Son of God which hath been pleaded amongst us and which God hath witnessed to by appeals and wonderful victories, I am brought to this place to suffer death this day. And if I had ten thousand lives, I would freely and cheerfully lay down them all to witness to this matter. Again, I do not lay down my life by constraint, but willingly; for if I had been minded to have run away, I might have had many opportunities. But being so clear in the thing, I durst not turn my back nor step a foot out of the way, by reason I have been in the service of so glorious and great a God.” His last words were characteristic of the Fifth Monarchy man militant: “ He

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

hath covered my head many times in the day of battle. By God I have leaped over a wall; by God I bave

a run through a troop; and by my God I will go through this death, and He will make it easy to me. Now into Thy hands, O Lord Jesus, I commit my spirit.” So, not ignobly, passed away the dream of dominion founded on grace, which had been dreamed by Wycliffe three centuries before.

The gentle Evelyn missed the execution of some of the regicides, but “met their quarters mangled, and cut and reeking, as they were brought from the gallows in baskets on the hurdle.” He piously ejaculates, “Oh, the stupendous and inscrutable judgments of God!” “The judgment of God was upon them, sir,” said a Tory fop, speaking of the regicides to Quin, “the judgment of heaven was upon them; almost all of them came to violent ends." “So, my lord," replied Quin, “ did almost all the apos

tles.” The king was present at some of the executions. 1661 The bodies of Cromwell, Bradshaw, Ireton, and Pride

were torn out of their graves, dragged to Tyburn, there hanged, and afterwards buried under the gallows, while their heads were set on the top of Westminster Hall. Ladies, we learn from Pepys, enjoyed the sight.

Much of this was the work of Presbyterians who predominated in the Convention Parliament, and had the king's assurance of favour to their sect. Prynne, with a cowl covering his head to hide the stumps of ears cropped by Stuart tyranny, was disgustingly forward in the hunt of vengeance. It is difficult to defend the participation of Manchester and others who, though they were not regicides, had met the king in battle. Axtell, who had commanded the guard at the king's execution, might well say that he was no more guilty than Essex, than Fairfax, who had remained in command of the army, than Manchester, Monck, or any soldier who had fought against the king's person under the orders of the parliament.

The Convention Parliament, from which Cavaliers were still, by the Ordinances, excluded, and in which Presbyterians predominated, was succeeded by a parlia- 1661 ment full of Cavaliers thirsting for unlimited vengeance. The country gentlemen, many of whom had once been Puritans, had, since the reign of the sectaries, passed almost in a body to the royalist side, and were full not only of political and religious, but of social exasperation. This assembly would have made bloody work had not Clarendon and Southampton, to their honour, strenuously upheld indemnity. Clarendon tells us that an attempt was made in vain to find the body of Charles I. This story, as Hallam says, cannot be true, since it was known both to the attendants at the funeral and to workmen where the body had been laid. Perhaps Clarendon did not wish the body to be found, because its production and a performance of solemn obsequies might have excited beyond control the passions of the Cavaliers. Cromwell's soldiers, though disbanded, were still there. Vengeance, however, was further satiated by outrages on the dead. Upwards of twenty persons who had been buried in Westminster Abbey were dug up and thrown into St. Mary's churchyard; among them were the bodies of Pym, Admiral Blake, his gallant colleague Admiral Deane, May the poet and historian, Dr. Twisse the prolocutor of the Westminster Assembly, Cromwell's mother, his sister, and two other women. To this

« ПредишнаНапред »