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KENSINGTON PALACE AND GARDENS CONTINUED - MAIDS
OF HONOUR-PROPOSED HISTORY OF THEM BY SWIFT AND ARBUTANOT-QUEEN ANNE'S HUNTING-RISE OF THE KENSINGTON GARDEN PROMENADES IN THE TIME OF GEORGE THE FIRST—FAIRY STORY IN TICKELL'S POEM ON THE GARDENS-PRINCESS OF WALES, AFTER
WARDS QUEEN CAROLINE-MISS HOBART-MISS HOWE
THE MISS BELLENDENS-MISS LEPELL-MISS PITT
OTHER PROMENADERS OF BOTH SEXES—ADDISON, STEELE,
AND GARTH-VOLTAIRE AND WATTEAU.
The institution of Maids of Honour, or something like it-great stars, or "spark
lers” (to use a term of that day) in this royal suburb of Kensington, must have been as ancient as that of royalty; but, with the exception of some passages in the reign of Henry the Eighth, and Mary, Queen of Scots, they can hardly be said to have made their appearance in this country, till the times of Grammont and Mr. Pepys. The first one of distinction that we meet with in English history, is Philippa Roet, daughter of Sir Payne Roet, wife of our great poet Chaucer, and sister of Katherine Swynford, who first became mistress, and afterwards wife, to John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. Katherine, who had been in the service of the Duke's first Duchess, had, perhaps, borne the title of Maid of Honour, as well as her sister; John of Gaunt having been titular King of Castile.
Courts, owing to the temptations they naturally create, and the proportionate necessity of counteracting the temptations, are places either of strict decorums, or of unusual licence. The titular king was probably less “particular” in his court, than Edward the Third his father was (at that time) in his ; and these two ladies may be said to shadow forth all the subsequent histories of maidens in the service of royalty. When we hear little or nothing of them, all goes well. The more their career becomes public, the less advantageous it is to their repute.
On the other hand, while some of the staidest reputations were probably undeserved, some of those the most shaken may have as little merited their ill fortune. We are not to take for granted that the two out of the four Maids of Honour who had the mis
fortune to become wives of Henry the Eighth deserved the imputations for which that disgusting mass of debauchery and brutality had the impudence to send them to the block. There is reason to suspect, that the staidest-looking of the four, Jane Seymour, was the least worthy of them all, as being the most heartless; and there is evidence to prove that the numerous Marys, who became celebrated in the court of their name-sake, Mary, Queen of Scots, were not, for the most part, if not altogether, more sinned against than sinning, in the censorious records of John Knox and others. Some of them, it is true, like Anne Bullen, had been bred in the court of France; and as no courts at that time had been paragons of propriety, ill constructions of the best of a set of lively damsels were easy; but some of Mary's
maidens evinced so much good-heartedness towards her during her troubles, that to think the worst of them became a vice; and whatever privilege might have been assumed by “ Knocking Jack of the North ” (as Swift called him), for calumniating all natures but his own, there remains a sharp reckoning to be come to by posterity with saints of his description, who beg all sorts of questions on the side of one kind of extreme, till they drive nations, out of melancholy desperation, into another.
We know not what assured evils would have resulted to Scotland, had Mary and her Maids of Honour been suffered to dance and play their guitars in peace; but it is certain that John Knox was the founder of the whiskey-shops.
We have little respect for “gallantries,”