Queen in Waiting: (Georgian Series) (31 page)

BOOK: Queen in Waiting: (Georgian Series)
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‘Down with the Pretender!’ cried the Protestants.

‘Damn George!’ responded the Jacobites. ‘Send the German back to Hanover.’

News from Scotland filtered through, but none could be sure how much was rumour, how much was truth. James had already been crowned at Scone. James had not yet crossed the sea. James came with arms and men supplied by the French. James came with nothing but a few miserable followers.

Ormonde and Bolingbroke who had both fled from England on the accession of George, were fighting to restore the fortunes of James – and their own. Toasts were drunk to ‘Job’ – the combined initials of James and these two men. There was tension and rising excitement everywhere.

None was calmer than the King. Ermengarda wanted to go back to Hanover, but George just waved her aside. It was only in moments of panic that she would have dared to advise.

The Prince of Wales was in despair. He came to his wife and she had never seen him so perturbed.

‘My father is von fool,’ he lamented. ‘These pipple do not him vant.’

‘It is not important for the pipple to him vant so much as it is for him to stay.’

‘The English pipple will have vat they vant and they vant this Stuart. There are riots in the Park this day. I vas nearby. I heard them shout: “Damn George!” They cheer for James.’

‘It is von mob,’ replied Caroline scornfully.

‘And two mob… and three mob. All over London there are these mob.’

‘Ve vill stand strong.’

‘And be sent back to Hanover?’

‘God forbid.’

‘Ah, ve are of von mind, my Caroline. I fear… I fear very much.’

‘Let us take a valk. Let us valk in the Mall. Let us show this pipple that ve love them.’

‘And you think that vill make them love us?’

‘I am sure of this,’ replied Caroline.

So he walked with her in the Park which his father had wanted to make private; and they chatted together and with their attendants; they showed no fear; they only expressed their affection towards the English people.

‘I vould rather on a dunghill live,’ declared Caroline, ‘than go back to Hanover.’

Even as she spoke the shouts of a Jacobite mob could be heard in the distance; but Caroline, smiling at her husband, made no sign that she heard.

‘At least,’ said the spectators, ‘these Germans have courage.’

Caroline knew she was right to have suggested the walk in public.

As they returned to their rooms George Augustus was flushed and happy.

‘It vas good this idea of mine… to show ourselves, eh?’

Caroline was about to protest that the idea had been hers. She stopped herself in time and nodded.

‘An excellent idea,’ she agreed.

From her maids of honour Caroline learned what was going on in the streets outside the Palace. They were uneasy, many of them, wondering, she knew, whether the end of the Hanoverian reign was in sight. Girls like Molly Lepel and Mary Bellenden chatted freely and in the highest of spirits. Caroline made no attempt to restrain them, for she realized the importance of learning all she could.

‘The Chevalier de St George is very handsome!’ sighed Mary Bellenden. ‘At least so I’ve heard.’

‘A trifle melancholy, I believe,’ whispered her companion.

‘But women love him.’

‘They love all Stuarts…’

‘Different from…’

Suppressed laughter. Yes, different from the Guelphs, thought Caroline, who – though none the less fond of women – managed to be graceless in their manners towards them.

She called to the girls. ‘You speak of the Pretender,’ she said.

They admitted it, just a little defiantly, she thought. How many of those who now called themselves her friends, wondered Caroline, would support the Stuart if he were successful.

‘I think of the battle of Oudenarde,’ she said.

‘Oudenarde, Your Highness?’

‘Yes. At this battle the Prince my husband is on the side of the English. The Pretender he fights for the French.’

The girls did not answer.

‘It is forgotten, you think?’ asked Caroline. ‘I do not think so. The English are the most grateful pipples in the vorld. They do not forget their friends, I think.’

‘No, Your Highness,’ murmured Molly. ‘They don’t forget these things.’

Caroline nodded: and the girls noticed later how often she introduced Oudenarde into the conversation, and the honours the Prince had won there. Others began remembering Oudenarde; and it was talked of at Court. And as what was discussed at court spread to the streets it was soon remembered throughout
the City how bravely the Prince had fought for the English at Oudenarde and that the man who now desired to be their King had fought against them.

During the vital months that followed, luck proved to be on the side of the Hanoverians.

Bolingbroke, exiled from England, and therefore joining with the Stuart cause, was appalled by the character of the man who would set out to capture a kingdom. There was no fire in him; he was a pessimist through and through; and although he had made elaborate plans, first for the capture of Scotland and then that of England, his natural melancholy always overcame his belief in his success.

‘The time is not yet,’ Bolingbroke urged him. ‘A rebellion now would have little hope of success.’

But James, at heart feeling certain of failure, yet wanted to make the attempt. Ever since the accession to the throne of England of the Hanoverian branch of the family, messengers had been going back and forth to Scotland. The Earl of Mar assured him that the whole of the Highlands were with him; there were riots in England – and in London the Jacobites were secretly drinking his health and awaiting the signal to rise against George and acclaim James III King.

Bolingbroke continued to advise. He had recently left England; he knew the temper of the people; they were Protestant at heart; a few riots in riverside taverns did not alter that. They liked the thrill of secretly plotting against the reigning monarch but did they want a civil war? Did they want to plunge themselves into bloodshed for the sake of replacing a German by a Frenchman – for his upbringing in France had made James that in their eyes? In the place of the Maypole and the Elephant there would be James’s mistresses – French, elegant and beautiful. More pleasant to look at, certainly, than those German ladies, but were the English prepared to go to war for that?

James turned from Bolingbroke; he was not the man to listen to advice he did not want to take.

When Louis XIV had died they had lost their best friend, Bolingbroke pointed out.

James retorted that the French would always support him
against the German; for one thing he was a Catholic and the German a Protestant. But Bolingbroke was unsure of the Due d’Orléans, who was acting as Regent for the little Louis XV, and continued in his belief that this was not the moment to make the attempt.

Meanwhile John Erskine, Earl of Mar, a man who at the accession of George had been prepared to throw in his fortunes with that king but had not been favourably received by him, was eager to set up the standard for James in Scotland and rally the clans to his help.

Even in this fate was against the Stuart, for when Mar, with a small company of sixty men, set up the flagpole, an ornament fell from the top, and the suspicious Highlanders, looking at each other gravely, declared it was an ill omen. The Stuarts were notoriously unfortunate. This poor James’s father had lost a crown; even his brother, the gay and charming Charles, had had to wander in penury on the Continent of Europe for years before he attained his; and one only had to mention the name of their ill-fated father to recall how he had lost his head.

No, the Stuarts’ luck had not changed; and the incident with the flagstaff was certainly an omen.

Those who had watched the moving ceremony, even as they saluted the flag when it fluttered nobly in the breeze, crossed their fingers, and wives implored their husbands to wait a wee while and not become too embroiled in the Stuart cause until the German was sent back to where he belonged.

Even so Mar marched South, and nobles and their followers joined them; and the band of sixty who had watched the planting of the flagstaff had grown to five thousand when they came marching into Perth.

Now there was alarm at the Court. Mar and his followers were preparing to march south. In London some bold men and women were actually wearing the white cockade.

Ermengarda was in despair.

‘You must leave at once,’ she told the King. ‘It is unsafe for you to stay here.’

But George only told her to be quiet.

‘These people chop off the heads of Kings they do not want.’

‘Only when they can’t get rid of them in any other way. They know they only have to tell me I’m to go back to Hanover and I’ll go.’

‘Let us not wait to be sent.’

‘You know nothing of these matters.’

‘I know I fear for your safety.’

George regarded her with mild affection. Dear Ermengarda! They had been together for so many years and while she loved adding to her fortunes, at the same time she had a genuine affection for him. It must be so, for she could gain more by staying in England than leaving it – and she was ready to leave this country and all those new treasures which she had accumulated, for the sake of his safety.

He would never discard her; in fact he did not see her as she was now – raddled and rouged, scraggy as an old hen, her enormous red wig with its luxuriant curls slightly askew on a head that was almost bald. He saw her as the beautiful young woman she had been when he had turned to her and found her character such that he wanted in a woman.

He allowed himself a rare moment of tenderness.

‘We’ll see it through,’ he said. ‘The worst that can happen will be that we’re sent back to Hanover, and that does not seem such a bad idea to me.’

Ermengarda replied that anything that put him in danger was the worst possible idea to her; but he knew best, she was well aware; and she was comforted.

And when she rode out and was recognized and jeered at, when she saw men and women wearing the white cockade, she said: ‘The King knows what is best. He will stay if he wants and go back if he wants.’

But she hoped she would stay. She could not be homesick for Hanover when England offered unlimited opportunities for increasing her fortune – for although the King had first place in her heart, money ran him very close.

The Duke of Marlborough was with the King and George eyed the great soldier suspiciously. Here was a man who could have been a great bulwark… if he could have been trusted. He was
no longer in his prime and the years of exile from the court of Queen Anne had taken more toll of him than all the exigencies of war.

But now he was offering his help and George, himself a soldier, could judge that it was good.

The situation was grave. Already five thousand men were in arms against them. Let them cross the Border, let them set up their standard in England and the Crown would be in very grave danger indeed. This must not become a civil war; it was to be nothing more than a rebellious rising; but it must not be forgotten how easily the second could become the first.

‘And what will you do?’ asked George.

‘Muster all the men we can and send them north. We have eight thousand men only; if we send all these north and are troubled with risings in the south, we shall be defeated. We must immediately raise new regiments; we must send for Dutch troops; and we must set up a camp in the Park, complete with cannon to show the people of London what they can expect if these riots become really menacing. The Prince can be useful. He and the Princess have some popularity with the people which… er…’

The King looked at the Duke and scowled. ‘Which I have not?’ he said gruffly.

‘Your Majesty’s lack of English is a great barrier, naturally.’

‘The Prince’s is far from good, I gather.’

‘It exists, Your Majesty, and the accent is quaint. This amuses and you know how your subjects enjoy being amused.’

‘They’ll never find me amusing them by aping their gibberish.’

‘No, Your Majesty, but the fact that the Prince has done so gives him a certain popularity. He will be with the troops in the Park; he will review them with Your Majesty and the Princess. And I think I should be with you. We will show that in adversity the royal family can stand together and that any little differences of opinion which may have existed are forgotten in the present danger.’

The King grunted. He could see the wisdom of Marlborough’s suggestion and being a soldier himself, he knew that however devious the Duke was, however unreliable, he must admire him
as the greatest soldier living – perhaps the greatest who had ever lived.

Marlborough was in command of the situation. The camp was set up in the Park; the Habeas Corpus Act was suspended and the Riot Act was read on the smallest provocation.

The people began to realize that although there might be excitement in the streets, there was also danger.

The Prince reviewed the troops in the Park. That he enjoyed very much. Beaming with pleasure, he would strut among the soldiers, complimenting them always on their good appearance, their obvious bravery and above all for being English.

The King was often with him and always managed to curb any outward sign of dislike; and when Dutch troops arrived in England, when certain Jacobites were arrested and sent to the Tower, when the Duke of Argyll, Commander of the King’s Forces, marched to the Border, tension relaxed. It seemed that Hanoverian George was more firmly on the throne than many had believed possible.

James arrived at Peterhead on a bleak December day which matched his mood.

He could not forget Bolingbroke’s warnings and he was wishing that Bolingbroke had never come to France. For so often he had planned this invasion; he had talked of nothing else during the last years of Anne’s reign; but in his heart there was a fatalism which made him believe that the throne of England would never be his. He had inherited many of his father’s characteristics and had no power to win men to his side. Handsome as he was, possessed of the notorious Stuart charm, he had only to spend a little time in any company for it to doubt his success. He was melancholy by nature; he believed in failure rather than success.

BOOK: Queen in Waiting: (Georgian Series)
7.61Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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