Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. V. Nineteenth Century
The Queens Innocence
By Henry Peter, Lord Brougham (17781868)
BUT, my lords, I am not reduced to this painful necessity. I feel that if I were to touch this branch of the case now, until any event shall afterwards show that unhappily I am deceiving myselfI feel that if I were now to approach the great subject of recrimination, I should seem to give up the higher ground of innocence on which I rest my cause; I should seem to be justifying when I plead Not Guilty; I should seem to argue in extenuation and in palliation of offences, or levities, or improprieties, the least and the lightest of which I stand here utterly to deny. For it is false, as has been saidit is foul and false as those have dared to say, who, pretending to discharge the higher duties to God, have shown that they know not the first of those duties to their fellow-creaturesit is foul, and false, and scandalous in those who have said (and they know that is so who have dared to say) that there are improprieties admitted in the conduct of the Queen. I deny that the admission has been made. I contend that the evidence does not prove them. I will show you that the evidence disproves them. One admission, doubtless, I do make; and let my learned friends who are of counsel for the Bill take all the benefit of it, for it is all that they have proved by their evidence. I grant that her Majesty left this country and went to reside in Italy. I grant that her society was chiefly foreign. I grant that it was an inferior society to that which she once enlightened and graced with her presence in this country. I admit, my lords, that while here, and while happy in the protectionnot perhaps of her own family, after the fatal event which deprived it of its head; but while enjoying the society of your lordships and the families of your lordships,I grant that the Queen moved in a more choice, in perhaps a more dignified society, than she afterwards adorned in Italy. And the charge against her is, that she has associated with Italians, instead of her own countrymen and countrywomen; and that, instead of the peeresses of England, she has sometimes lived with Italian nobility, and sometimes with persons of the commonalty of that country. But who are they that bring this charge, and above all, before whom do they urge it? Others may accuse herothers may blame her for going abroadothers may tell tales of the consequences of living among Italians, and of not associating with the women of her country, or of her adopted country; but it is not your lordships that have any right to say so. It is not you, my lords, that can fling this stone at her Majesty. You are the last persons in the worldyou, who now presume to judge her, are the last persons in the world so to charge her; for you are the witnesses whom she must call to vindicate her from that charge. You are the last persons who can so charge her; for you, being her witnesses, have been also the instigators of that only admitted crime. While she was here, she courteously opened the doors of her palace to the families of your lordships. She graciously condescended to mix herself in the habits of most familiar life, with those virtuous and distinguished persons. She condescended to court your society, and, as long as it suited purposes not of hersas long as it was subservient to views not of her ownas long as it served interests in which she had no concernshe did not court that society in vain. But when changes took placewhen other views arosewhen that power was to be retained which she had been made the instrument of graspingwhen that lust of power and place was to be continued its gratification, to the first gratification of which she had been made the victimthen her doors were opened in vain; then that society of the Peeresses of England was withholden from her; then she was reduced to the alternative, humiliating indeed, for I say that her condescension to you and yours was no humiliationshe was only lowering herself by overlooking the distinctions of rank to enjoy the first society in the world,but then it pleased you to reduce her to what was really humiliatingeither to acknowledge that you had deserted herto seek the company of those who now made it a favour which she saw they unwillingly granted, or to leave the country and have recourse to other society inferior to yours. I say, then, my lords, that this is not the place where I must be toldit is not in the presence of your lordships I must expect to hear any one lift his voice to complainthat the Princess of Wales went to reside in Italy, and associated with those whose society she neither ought to have chosencertainly would not have chosen, perhaps ought not to have chosenhad she been in other and happier circumstances.
In the midst of this, and of so much suffering as to an ingenuous mind such conduct could not fail to cause, she still had one resource, and which, for a space, was allowed to remain to herI need hardly say I mean the comfort of knowing that she still possessed the undiminished attachment and grateful respect of her justly respected and deeply lamented daughter. An event now took place which, of all others, most excites the feelings of a parent; that daughter was about to form a union upon which the happinessupon which, alas! the Queen knew too well how much the happiness or the misery of her future life must depend. No announcement was made to her Majesty of the projected alliance. All England occupied with the subjectEurope looking on with an interest which it certainly had in so great an eventEngland had it announced to her; Europe had it announced to hereach petty German prince had it announced to him; but the one person to whom no notice of it was given, was the mother of the bride who was to be espoused; and all that she had done then to deserve this treatment was, with respect to one of the illustrious parties, that she had been proved, by his evidence against her, to be not guilty of the charge he launched at her behind her back; and with respect to his servants, that they had formerly used her as the tool by which their ambition was to be gratified. The marriage itself was consummated. Still no notice was communicated to the Queen. She heard it accidentally by a courier who was going to announce the intelligence to the Pope, that ancient, intimate, much-valued ally of the Protestant Crown of these realms, and with whose close friendship the title of the Brunswicks to our Crown is so interwoven. A prospect grateful to the whole nation, interesting to all Europe, was now afforded, that the marriage would be a fruitful source of stability to the royal family of these realms. The whole of that period, painfully interesting to a parent as well as to a husband, was passed without the slightest communication; and if the Princess Charlottes own feelings had prompted her to open one, she was in a state of anxiety of mind and of delicacy of frame, in consequence of that her first pregnancy, which made it dangerous to have maintained a struggle between power and authority on the one hand, and affection and duty on the other. An event most fatal followed, which plunged the whole of England into grief; one in which all our foreign neighbours sympathised, and while, with a due regard to the feelings of those foreign allies, and even of strange powers and princes with whom we had no alliance, that event was speedily communicated by particular messengers to each, the person in all the world who had the deepest interest in the eventthe person whose feelings, above those of all the rest of mankind, were most overwhelmed and stunned by itwas left to be stunned and overwhelmed by it accidentally; as she had by accident heard of the marriage. But if she had not heard of the dreadful event by accident, she would ere long have felt it, for the decease of the Princess Charlotte was communicated to her mother, by the issuing of the Milan Commission and the commencement of the proceedings for the third time against her character and her life.