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of the father, while Mr. Fox and the Opposition committed themselves with the irregularities of the son; and the proceedings of both parties were such as might have been expected from their respective connections—the Royal mark was but too visible upon each.
One evil consequence, that was on the point of resulting from the embarrassed situation in which the Prince now found himself, was his acceptance of a loan which the Duke of Orleans had proffered him, and which would have had the perilous tendency of placing the future Sovereign of England in a state of dependence, as creditor, on a Prince of France. That the negotiations in this extraordinary transaction had proceeded farther than is generally supposed, will appear from the following letters of the Duke of Portland to Sheridan
« DEAR SHERIDAN,
Sunday noon, 13. Dec. “ Since I saw you I have received a confirmation of the intelligence which was the subject of our conversation. The particulars varied in no respect from those I related to you, except in the addition of a pension, which is to take place immediately on the event which entitles the creditors to payment, and is to be granted for life to a nominee of the D. of O_S. The loan was mentioned in a mixed company by two of the Frenchwomen and a Frenchman (none of whose names I know) in Calonne's presence, who interrupted them, by asking, how they came to know any thing of the matter, then set them right in two or three particulars which they had mistated, and afterwards begged them, for God's sake, not to talk of it, because it might be their complete ruin.
“I am going to Bulstrode but will return at a moment's notice, if I can be of the least use in getting rid of this odious engagement, or preventing its being entered into, if it should not be yet completed.
“ Yours ever,
DEAR SHERIDAN, " I think myself much obliged to you for what you have done. I hope I am not too sanguine in looking to a good conclusion of this bad business. I will certainly be in town by two o'clock.
• Yours ever,
" Bulstrode, Monday, 14. Dec.
9 A. M.
Mr. Sheridan, who was now high in the confidence of the Prince, had twice, in the course of the year 1786, taken occasion to allude publicly to the embarrassments of His Royal Highness. Indeed, the decisive measure which this Illustrious Person himself had adopted, in reducing his establishment and devoting a part of his income to the discharge of his debts, sufficiently proclaimed the true state of affairs to the public. Still, however, the strange policy was persevered in, of adding the discontent of the Heir-Apparent to the other weapons in the hands of the Opposition ;-and, as might be expected, they were not tardy in turning it to account. In the spring of 1787, the embarrassed state of His Royal Highness's affairs was brought formally under the notice of parliament by Alderman Newenham.
During one of the discussions to which the subject gave rise, Mr. Rolle, the member for Devonshire, a strong adherent of the ministry, in deprecating the question about to be agitated, affirmed that "it went immediately to affect our Constitution in Church and State.” In these solemn words it was well understood, that he alluded to a report at that time generally believed, and, indeed, acted upon by many in the etiquette of private life, that a marriage had been solemnized between the Prince of Wales and Mrs. Fitzherbert-a lady of the Roman Catholic persuasion, who, with more danger to her own peace than to that of either Church or State, had for some time been the distinguished object of His Royal Highness's affection.
Ev en had an alliance of this description taken place, the provi sions of the Royal Marriage Act would have nullified it into a mere ceremony, inefficient, as it was supposed, for any other purpose than that of satisfying the scruples of one of the parties. But that dread of Popery, which in England starts at its own shadow, took alarm at the consequences of an intercourse so heterodox; and it became necessary, in the opinion of the Prince and his friends, to put an end to the apprehensions that were abroad on the subject.
Nor can it be denied that, in the minds of those who believed that the marriage had been actually solemnized,* there were, in one point of view, very sufficient grounds of alarm. By the Statute of William and Mary, commonly called the Bill of Rights, it is enacted, among other causes of exclusion
from the throne, that “ every person who shall marry a · Papist shall be excluded and for ever be incapable to inherit
the crown of this realm.”-In such cases (adds this truly revolutionary Act) “ the people of these realms shall be and are hereby absolved of their allegiance.” Under this Act, which was confirmed by the Act of Settlement, it is evident that the Heir-Apparent would, by such a marriage as was now attributed to him, have forfeited his right of succession to the throne. From so serious a penalty, however, it was generally supposed, he would have been exempted by the operation of the Royal Marriage Act (12 George III.), which rendered null and void any marriage contracted by any descendant of George II. without the previous consent of the King, or a twelve months' notice given to the Privy Council.
That this Act would have nullified the alleged marriage of the Prince of Wales there is, of course, no doubt ;-but that it would also have exempted him from the forfeiture incurred by marriage with a Papist, is a point which, in the minds of many, still remains a question. There are, it is well known, analogous cases in Law, where the nullity of an illegal transaction does not do away the penalty attached to
Horne Tooke, in his insidious pamphlet on the subject, presumed so fár on this belief as to call Mrs. Fitzherbert “Her Royal Highness."
it.* To persons, therefore, who believed that the actual solemnization of the marriage could be proved by witnesses present at the ceremony, this view of the case, which seemed to promise an interruption of the Succession, could not fail to suggest some disquieting apprehensions and speculations, which nothing short, it was thought, of a public and authentic disavowal of the marriage altogether would be able effectually to allay. · If in politics Princes are unsafe allies, in connections of a tenderer nature they are still more perilous partners; and a triumph over a Royal lover is dearly bought by the various risks and humiliations which accompany it. Not only is a lower standard of constancy applied to persons of that rank, but when once love-affairs are converted into matters of state, there is an end to all the delicacy and mystery that ought to encircle them. The disavowal of a Royal marriage in the Gazette would have been no novelty in English history it and the disclaimer, on the present occasion, though intrusted to a less official medium, was equally public, strong, and unceremonious.
Mr. Fox, who had not been present in the House of Commons when the member for Devonshire alluded to the circumstance, took occasion, on the next discussion of the question, and, as he declared, with the immediate authority of the Prince, to contradict the report of the marriage in the fullest and most unqualified terms :-it was, he said, “ a miserable calumny, a low malicious falsehood, which had been propagated without doors, and made the wanton sport of the
* Thus, a man, by contracting a second marriage, pending the first marriage, commits a felony; and the crime, according to its legal description, consists in marrying, or contracting a marriage—though what he does is no more a marriage than that of the Heir-Apparent would be under the circumstances in question.
The same principle, it appears, runs through the whole Law of Entails both in England and Scotland, and a variety of cases might be cited, in which, though the act done is void, yet the doing of it creates a forfeiture.
+ See, in Ellis's Letters of History, vol. iii. the declarations of Charles II. with respect to his marriage with one Mrs. Walters," signed by himself, and published in the London Gazette.
vulgar ;-a tale, fit only to impose upon the lowest orders, a monstrous invention, a report of a fact which had not the smallest degree of foundation, actually impossible to have happened.” To an observation from Mr. Rolle that “they all knew there was an act of Parliament which forbade such a marriage ; but that, though it could not be done under the formal sanction of the law, there were ways in which it might have taken place, and in which that law, in the minds of some persons, might have been satisfactorily evaded,”—Mn Fox replied, that “ he did not deny the calumny in question merely with regard to certain existing laws, but that he denied it in toto, in point of fact as well as of law :-it not only never could have happened legally, but it never did happen in any way whatsoever, and had from the beginning been a base and malicious falsehood.”.
Though Mr. Rolle, from either obstinacy or real distrust, refused, in spite of the repeated calls of Mr. Sheridan and Mr. Grey, to declare himself satisfied with this declaration, it was felt by the minister to be at least sufficiently explicit and decisive, to leave him no further pretext in the eyes of the public, for refusing the relief which the situation of the Prince required. Accordingly, a message from the Crown on the subject of His Royal Highness's debts was followed by an addition to his income of 10,0001. yearly out of the Civil List; an issue of 161,0001. from the same source, for the discharge of his debts, and 20,000l. on account of the works at Carlton House.
In the same proportion that this authorised declaration was successful in satisfying the public mind, it must naturally have been painful and humiliating to the person whose honour was involved in it. The immediate consequence of this feel. ing was a breach between that person and Mr. Fox, which, notwith standing the continuance, for so many years after, of the attachment of both to the same illustrious object, remained, it is understood, unreconciled to the last.
If, in the first movement of sympathy with the pain excited in that quarter, a retractation of this public disavowal was thought of, the impossibility of finding any creditable medium