Saturday, November 7, 2015

Shadows in a Timeless Myth Presents Heroines of the English Civil War

The great constitutional struggle of the seventeenth century was a struggle in which the whole nation was engaged. Every move on either side sent a thrill of hope or fear, of joy or indignation, throughout the kingdom. The brave defence of castle and home by the women, the patient endurance of hardship, the courage in presence of danger, the quick wit which could avert misfortune, make the Civil War of the seventeenth century peculiarly rich in striking incident. Every family of importance was ranged on one side or the other, and many a one that could lay claim to no special distinction acquired fame during the struggle, while a fierce additional interest was lent by the religious element. All classes, in fact, were affected. None could stand aloof. The civil war became not only a national but also a domestic question, a matter of the deepest personal concern to hundreds who had no interest in statecraft. It was remarkable for the absence of any foreign element. The contest lay between King and people, or rather between royal prerogative and the liberty of the subject. The Queen herself, Henrietta of Nance, though as a Roman Catholic she was the source of contention, played but an insignificant part in the war. She had not the spirit of Margaret of Anjou, and, on account of her alien creed, commanded the sympathies of neither side. The Queen never formed a party strong enough to change the current of events. She was one of the dramatis personæ in the great tragedy, but not a leading actor. It was a people’s war. The influence of foreign allies, the factions of court favourites, were as nothing. In former periods when civil war had raged, the flame had been kindled and fed by disputes for power among sovereigns and princes; the struggle had always assumed something of an imperial character. In the seventeenth century it was a purely internal dissension. Hence the overwhelming interest felt in the struggle by both women as well as men, of all classes.

Women both on the Royalist and the Puritan side were in the thick of the fray, sometimes actually taking part in the fight, as in the case of the Countess of Derby, whose defence of Lathom House against the Parliamentarians is among the most noted incidents of the war; or like Lucy Hutchinson, playing an equally important rôle in attending to the wounded. Mrs. Hutchinson, strong Puritan as she was, regarded Cromwell as a usurper and a despot, though she admitted his greatness, and his family excited her scorn and derision.
“His wife and children were setting up for principality which suited no better with any of them than scarlet on the ape; only to speak the truth of himself, he had much natural greatness and well became the place he had usurped.”
Lucy Hutchinson’s father, Sir Allen Aspley, was governor of the Tower during the time of Sir Walter Raleigh’s imprisonment. Her mother was in the habit of visiting Sir Walter, and helping him with the chemical experiments with which he wiled away the hours when not engaged in writing his “History of the World.” It has been suggested that Mrs. Hutchinson obtained from her mother some knowledge of the properties of medicine, for during the siege of Nottingham she proved most helpful in dressing the soldiers’ wounds, and her plasters and balsams were found most efficacious even in dangerous cases. Mrs. Hutchinson was not the only member of her sex who proved herself able and ready for action in the city of Nottingham. After the siege was practically over, and the royalist forces had departed, the town was constantly being fired. Thereupon the women banded themselves together, and in parties of fifty patrolled the streets every night.

Mrs. Hutchinson was of great service, at the beginning of 1660, in assisting to quell the disturbances which arose over the elections. There was a strong party in the city for the King, and much ill feeling aroused between the townsmen and the soldiers of the Commonwealth. Just as matters were coming to a crisis and the soldiers were preparing to take vengeance on the citizens, Mrs. Hutchinson opportunely arrived—
“and being acquainted with the captaines perswaded them to doe nothing in a tumultuary way, however provok’d, but to complain to the generall, and lett him decide the businesse. The men, att her entreaty, were content so to doe, the townsmen alsoe consenting to restreine their children and servants and keepe the publick peace.”
It was in the year 1643 that the Countess of Derby began her memorable defence of Lathom House. The Countess was a Frenchwoman, a daughter of the Duc de Tremouille, and a descendant of Count William of Nassau. Negotiations began in May with a summons from Mr. Holland, Governor of Manchester, to Lady Derby to subscribe to the propositions of the Parliament or yield up Lathom House. The Earl was then away, fighting for the King. Her ladyship refused either to subscribe or to give up her house.
“From this time she endured a continual siege, being, with the exception of the gardens and walks, confined as a prisoner within her own walls, with the liberty of the castle-yard, suffering the sequestration of the whole estate, besides daily affronts and indignities from unworthy persons.”
The Countess was very circumspect, putting a restraint upon her soldiers, and giving no provocation to her foes, “and so by her wisdom kept them at a more favourable distance for the space of almost a whole year.”

In the following February Sir Thomas Fairfax wrote demanding surrender, to which the Countess replied that—
“she much wondered that Sir Thomas Fairfax should require her to give up her lord’s house without any offence on her part done to the Parliament, desiring that in a business of such weight which struck both at her religion and at her life, and that so nearly concerned her sovereign, her lord, and her whole posterity, she might have a week’s consideration.”
The Parliamentarian general then proposed a conference at a house about a quarter of a mile distant from Lathom House, but the Countess refused with dignity, saying she conceived it “more knightly that Sir Thomas Fairfax should wait upon her than she upon him.” After further parleyings with Parliamentarians, she finally sent the following spirited message:—
“That she refused all their articles, and was truly happy that they had refused hers, protesting she had rather hazard her life than offer the like again. That though a woman and a stranger, divorced from her friends and robbed of her estate, she was ready to receive their utmost violence, trusting in God both for protection and deliverance.”
The siege thereupon commenced, and was carried on in a desultory fashion by Sir Thomas Fairfax, who, after six or seven weeks, resigned his post to Colonel Rigby of Preston. The Countess commanded her troops, numbering three hundred soldiers, in person. The besiegers amounted to between two and three thousand men, of whom they lost five hundred, while the Countess lost only six during the whole period, two of those being killed by their own negligence.

After manufacturing a number of grenadoes, the Colonel sent a very peremptory message to the Countess demanding that Lathom House should be surrendered. Lady Derby received the message surrounded by her troops. She tore up the paper, and, turning to the messenger, said—
“Tell that insolent rebel [Rigby] he shall neither have person, goods, nor house; when our strength of provisions are spent, we shall find a fire more merciful than Rigby’s, and then, if the providence of God prevent it not, my goods and house shall burn in his sight; and myself, children, and soldiers, rather than fall into his hands, will seal our religion and loyalty in the same flame.”
The Countess followed up her words with deeds, and at four o’clock the next morning caused a sally to be made, whereby her soldiers got possession of the ditch and rampart, and of a very destructive mortar piece which had been pouring forth grenadoes from its mouth on to the besieged. Rigby wrote to the deputy-lieutenants of Lancashire begging for assistance. “The length of the siege,” he complained, “and the hard duties have wearied all soldiers.” As for himself, he says, “I almost languish under the burden, having toiled above my strength.” However, nobody had time to attend to Rigby’s complaints, and after a few more weeks he raised the siege. Help was now coming to the beleaguered garrison. The Earl of Derby and Prince Rupert were on their way, and Rigby, in his endeavours to escape the Royalist forces, was surprised and badly beaten just as he had reached the town of Bolton.
“In this memorable action the Countess was amply revenged. The Earl of Derby took the first colour that fell before the Royalists, and with his own hand cut down a man who had once been his servant, but who had deserted with the intention of betraying his mistress in the time of her greatest peril.”
Another memorable siege in 1643 was that of Wardour Castle in Wiltshire, the family seat of Lord Arundel. The Parliamentarians seized the opportunity when Lord Arundel was engaged in the king’s service at Oxford to besiege the castle. They came with a supposed warrant to seize certain plate, money, and arms. Lady Blanche Arundel, though she had only a handful of men—twenty-five, it is said—to oppose the thirteen hundred soldiers mustered under Sir Edward Hungerford and Colonel Strode, bravely refused to yield to the demand that she should surrender the castle, saying “she had a command from her lord to keep it, and she would obey his command.” Cannon were brought up within musket-shot, and the battery continued from Wednesday to the following Monday. Two mines were sprung in a vault through which food was conveyed. One of these mines, being connected by passages with several parts of the castle, did much damage.

Sir Edward Hungerford again and again offered to grant quarter to the women and children if the castle were surrendered, but the offer was contemptuously refused, the women bravely resolving to die beside the men rather than live on dishonourable terms. The female servants were very useful in reloading muskets and bringing food to the soldiers.

But at length the besieged became worn out with the strain. Food was short, and they got no rest night or day. The soldiers were so faint and weary they could scarcely wield their arms.
“It might have been a doubt which they would have first loaded their muskets withal, either powder before bullet or bullet before powder, had not the maid servants (valiant beyond their sex) assisted them and done that service for them. Lastly, now when the rebels had brought petarrs and applied them to the garden door (which if forced opened a free passage into the castle), and balls of wild fire to show in at their windows, and all hope of keeping the castle was taken away; now, and not till now, did the besieged sound a parley.”
This was after the siege had lasted nine days. Five van-loads of costly furniture were carried off by the Parliamentarians, who plundered and destroyed as much as £100,000 worth of property. The women and children were carried off prisoners to Shaftesbury.

Corfe Castle, Dorsetshire, was bravely held for the Royalists in 1643 by Lady Mary Bankes, wife of the Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, “to her eternall honour be it spoken, with her daughters, women and five soldiers.” Being so short of men and arms, the besieged had recourse to stones and hot embers. These missiles they cast over the walls, which the foe were attempting to scale, and greatly diminished the strength of the attack. The siege lasted six weeks, and the leader of the Parliamentarian army was so dispirited that when the news arrived that a party of Royalists were advancing to relieve the castle, he took flight. The next in command, not being disposed to try conclusions with a fresh force, did not even wait to collect his artillery and ammunition, but slipped away at night in a boat. Among other booty he left behind about a hundred horses.

A distinguished Irish lady, Lettice Digby, Baroness of Offaley, displayed marvellous courage during the troubles of 1641, when the Irish rebels stormed her castle of Greashill, in King’s County. Although she was upwards of sixty years of age, she undertook the defence of her home with great vigour. The castle stood in the midst of bogs and woods, and Lady Lettice, relying on the security of her position, closed the gates and refused to listen to any terms for surrender. She was at length relieved by Viscount Lisle and Sir Charles Cook, and, having been supplied with food and firearms, she resolved not to leave the castle, but to take the risk of another assault. This occurred soon after, and on this second occasion Sir Richard Grenville came to her aid. Apparently this valorous lady was then induced to change her quarters. She died in 1658, at Cobs Hill, Warwickshire, one of her estates.

Lady Fanshawe, whose father was an ardent Royalist, endured a good deal both before and after her marriage, which took place in 1644. Sir Richard Fanshawe, who was a connection on her mother’s side, held the post of Secretary of War to the Prince of Wales, and was taken prisoner at the battle of Worcester.
“During the time of his imprisonment,” writes Lady Fanshawe in the “Memoirs” she compiled for her children, “I failed not constantly to go when the clock struck four in the morning, with a dark lantern in my hand, all alone and on foot, from my lodgings in Chancery-lane, at my cousin Youngs, to Whitehall, in at the entry that went out of King-street into the Bowling-green. There I would go under his window and softly call him; he, after the first time excepted, never failed to put out his head at the first call: thus we talked together, and sometimes I was so wet with the rain that it went in at my neck and out at my heels. He directed me how I should make my addresses, which I did ever to their General Cromwell, who had a great respect for your father, and would have bought him off to his service upon any terms.”
After great exertions, she succeeded in getting her husband released on bail.

While in Ireland Lady Fanshawe displayed great courage. She was in Cork with her children, her husband being engaged elsewhere, during the revolt of 1649. The city was in the hands of Cromwell’s army, but “through thousands of naked swords” she conveyed her children and her maids to a place of safety.

During the war women as well as men were called upon to contribute money and arms to the Commonwealth. A letter from Cromwell himself was addressed from Huntingdon, August 2, 1643, “to the Bachelors and Maids.”
“I understand,” he wrote, “by these gentlemen, the good affection of your young men and maids, for which God is to be praised. I approve of the business, only I desire to advise you that your foot company may be turned into a troop of horse, which indeed will (by God’s blessing) far more advantage the cause than two or three companies of foot, especially if your men be honest, godly men, which by all means I desire. I thank God for stirring up the youth to cast in their mite, which I desire may be employed to the best advantage; therefore my advice is, that you would employ your twelve-score pounds to buy my pistols and saddles, and I will provide four-score horses; for £400 more will not raise a troop of horse.”
A typical instance of the straits to which gentlewomen were reduced, and the hardships and injuries which they suffered, may be found in the case of Mistress Joyce Jefferies, a maiden lady of good birth and some fortune, living on her own property in the thoroughly Royalist city of Hereford, which went through many vicissitudes during the Civil War. In 1638 Mistress Jefferies was called upon for ship money. This she paid, and also provided one soldier in respect of her farm and one for her other property in Hereford when the Trained Bands were called out. The ancestral armour which hung rusting on her walls she had taken down and cleaned ready for use. Up to the year 1642 Mistress Jefferies was able to remain unmolested in her own house, but in September of that year the Earl of Essex was advancing rapidly westward and took possession of the city of Worcester. It was felt that Hereford was no longer a safe place for Royalists, so, packing up some furniture and clothes, Mistress Jefferies got into her carriage and drove away.
“I came,” she writes in her diary or account-book, “to Kilkinton, to my cosin penreeses house from heriford for feare of ye parliaments army, September 23d, 1642. The 27 I came from thence to Mr. Geeres at Garnons.”
She contrived to have some of her possessions sent after her, for there are records of payment to different carriers—
“Paid Edward Parsons of heryford for helpping to carry my goods out of my howse in heriford to the cart that brought hit to Kilkinton, for feare of ye coming of ye parliaments army from Worcester to heriford 1s. Gave another man for helpping in the same work 3d. Paid Edward Stefens, Carier, for cariing a way my trunks and boxes and bedding from heriford to Kilkinton 25s.”
She saved some things by hiding them in the coal cellar, for she notes down that she paid fourpence to a “carpinder to pass my standard powles in ye cole house when the souldiers would had them barricade Widmarsh Gate.” She did not get away much too soon, for she writes—
“Friday the 30. The Parliaments Army cam to herifford frõ Worster, Henry Gray, Earle of Stamford, ye Generall. On Tewsday morning October 4 captain Hamon and his barons company plundered Mr. Geereses house at Garnons, both them and me of much Goods, toke a way my 2 bay coache mares and som money, and much Linen: and Elyza Acton’s clothes. I cam frõ Garnons ye same Tewsday to Mr. John Garpinder’s to Hinton, a mile off, and staied there till the 14 of December following.”
From place to place this good lady went seeking safety. She was reduced to having her clothes hidden in different places.
“January 7 feare of ye plunderers gave goody Lawrence for keeping clothes of myne and Eliza Actons (a young lady who lived with her) in ye hill for feare 1s.”
When she could not save her apparel from falling into the enemy’s hands, she managed sometimes to redeem it, as in the following case:—
“Paid Mathias Rafford w^{ch} he laid out to redeeme my 2 black bever Hatts, and 2 gould bands out of ye theefes or plunderers hand, they took at Garnons 21/6.”
Soldiers had meantime been quartered in her house in Hereford, where she had left her maidservants, and whither Miss Eliza Acton seems to have gone from time to time to keep things in order. When the Royalists triumphed and established a garrison in the city, Mistress Jefferies paid her quota for the support of the soldiers. She was one of the richest householders in the city. The victory of the Royalists was short-lived, for in 1643 Hereford was again besieged by the Parliamentary forces. So things went on for a couple of years, and Mistress Jefferies had to consent to see her comfortable house in the outskirts of the city razed to the ground to make room for military operations when another siege was expected. Far from grumbling at her own misfortunes, she was always ready to lend a helping hand to her neighbours. The income derived from her estates was seized by those other “plunderers,” the Parliamentary Committee, who doled out to her some portion of her own property, imposing fines simply because she was a Royalist.

A distant relative of Mistress Jefferies was reduced to the most abject poverty during this period. This was a Mrs. Conyngesby, whose husband was sheriff of the county of Hereford, and also the owner of Hampton Court. Before the war broke out he had been burdened with debts, and during the early years of the Commonwealth, while he was absent from England, his family were reduced almost to beggary. Mrs. Conyngesby was constantly besieging the authorities who received petitions in Goldsmiths’ Hall, begging for one-fifth part of her husband’s estates, for her children were wanting food. These kinds of petitions were continually pouring in at Goldsmiths’ Hall, and though orders were given for money to be paid, much laxity was shown in the execution, and the wretched petitioners were kept for weary months in suspense and privation, and deemed themselves fortunate if they secured anything from the general wreck.

A foremost figure in the troubles going on in Ireland while war was raging in England was Lady Ranelagh, daughter of the first Earl of Cork. Through her persuasions her husband was induced to change sides and come over from the King to the Parliament. He became a genuine supporter of Cromwell, giving up to the common cause five castles, and also aiding the Parliamentary forces with men and arms. His family were, in consequence, reduced to great straits, and in 1646 Lady Ranelagh petitioned Parliament for some support. The sum of £6 a-week was allowed her for four years, and after this she had £4 a-week up to 1653. In spite of her anti-Stuart feelings, she was a good friend to those of the other side who were in distress. The eldest son of Lord Clarendon, who, after the Revolution, was involved in a plot for the restoration of James II., owed much to her good offices, as did also the second son who proclaimed himself in favour of the hereditary line of sovereigns, and was in danger of losing his government pension. Through Lady Ranelagh’s friendship with Bishop Burnet, who used his good offices with the Queen, the offence was passed over. Lady Ranelagh, on the other hand, made efforts to save the life of Lord William Russell, and tried to help those persecuted for religion like William Riffin, who was arrested by order of the Duke of Buckingham for preaching in a Baptist chapel.

It will be seen how frequently women were called upon to take a personal and decisive part in the great struggle of the seventeenth century.
“There was no security against the lawlessness of the soldiery, who availed themselves (on both sides) of the slightest pretext for entering private houses, and plundering and menacing the inhabitants. A suspicion of disaffection either way, or the possession of arms or gunpowder, was excuse enough for violence and rapine. Unprotected widows, or ladies left in charge of mansions and domains while their husbands were out levying troops, offered irresistible temptation to the scattered parties of half-fed troops that went marauding hungrily over the country."
Two sisters wrote the following appeal to General Fairfax:—
“May it please your Excellency to vouchsafe me and my sister Ann your honourable favour and protection for our goods, and that we may not suffer though my brother hath broke his promise with your lordship; which I vow my Lord, I was altogether ignorant of, and it grieves me infinitely; for that we have ever found your lordship so noble a friend to our house. Therefore I beseech your lordship to commiserate our cases who are left orphans, and for my dear deceased father’s sake, who loved and honoured your lordship truly, let us not, who are innocent, suffer; but that your wonted goodness and favour may still reflect and shine upon us, by which you shall oblige us ever to remain my Lord,
“Your lordship’s most humble servants,
Mary Middleton,
Ann Middleton.”
The Parliament were very much afraid of the leading women in the Royalist party, and to undermine their influence and prevent communication, orders were given that certain ladies should be removed from their homes. Colonel Chomeley was directed particularly to get Lady Musgrave out of the way. A letter was sent from William Roe, Secretary to the Commissioners, dated from Newcastle, April 12, 1645—
“Whereas we are informed that the wives of sundry of our enemies in Carlisle are remaining at their own houses in Cumberland and Westmoreland, from whence they may give intelligence of all that passeth amongst yourselves, and are ready to stir the vil humours and to improve all discontents, to the raising up of tumults, and bringing in confusion with the people and inhabitants their neighbours, round about them: we think fit and hereby order that Colonel Chomeley shall take care to apprehend all such persons as he may have just cause to suspect to be stirrers up of sedition and insurrection; that in particular he would repair to the Lady Musgrave at Eden Hall, and conduct her to Carlisle, where she may remain with her husband, Sir Philip Musgrave, in more security than in her house at Eden Hall, in these tumultuous and troublesome times; and of this service we expect an account as speedily as may be.”
Lady Musgrave, whose husband, Sir Philip Musgrave, was a staunch Royalist, addressed the following remonstrance to Lord Fairfax:—
“I have formerly received your lordship’s protection for my remaining at Eden Hall, if I be obedient to ordinance of Parliament, which they cannot tax me, for my accusation is suspicion of intelligence, without desert or proof. Colonel Chomeley hath orders for my removing. I did desire the stay of us till I knew your honour’s pleasure. Eden Hall is my jointure, where my humble suit is to remain, being very unfit for travel. But I wholly refer myself to your lordship’s pleasure, both for means, and what place I and my children may remain together at, presuming that your honourable favour and worth will consider my poor condition, which shall ever oblige me to be,
“Your most obedient servant,
Julian Musgrave.”
Another instance of the prominent part which women were compelled to take in the stormy politics of the seventeenth century, may be found in the life of Lady Anne Halkett, the daughter of Thomas Murray, who was Secretary to Charles I. when Prince of Wales. It was Mistress Anne who, at the request of Colonel Bamfield, assisted the Duke of York to escape from St. James’s Palace. She caused a female costume to be made for the duke by her own tailor, having first procured the necessary measurements from Colonel Bamfield. There was a little awkwardness about this initial proceeding, for the tailor much wondered at the directions given him.
“When I gave the measure to my tailor to inquire how much mohaire would serve to make a petticoate and wastcoate to a young gentlewoman of that bignesse and stature, hee considered itt a long time, and said hee had many gownes and suites, butt hee had never made any to such a person in his life. I thought hee was in the right, butt his meaning was, hee had never seene any woman of so lowe a stature have so big a waste; however hee made itt as exactly fitt as if hee had taken the measure himselfe. It was a mixed mohaire of a light haire colour and blacke, and ye under petticoate was scarlett.”
It was arranged that the duke should make his escape on the evening of April 20, 1648. The duke was accustomed to play at hide and seek with his attendants after supper, and this game was employed to cover his flight. Colonel Bamfield waited at the garden gate of the palace, and conveyed the duke to a house that he had hired, where the costume was in readiness, and Mistress Anne and another were waiting in great anxiety.
“I had many feares,” she writes, “for Colonel Bamfield had desired me, if they came nott there precisely by ten a’clocke, to shift for myselfe, for then I might conclude they were discovered, and soe my stay there could doe no good, but prejudice my selfe. Yett this did nott make me leave the howse, though ten a’clocke did strike, and hee that was intrusted offten wentt to the landing place, and saw no boate comming was much discouraged, and asked mee what I would doe. I told him I came there with a resolution to save his Highnesse, and I was fully determined nott to leave that place till I was outt of hopes of doing what I came there for, and would take my hazard. Hee left me to go againe to ye watter-side, and heard a great noise of many as I thought comming up staires, which I expected to be soldiers to take mee, but it was a pleasing disapointmentt, for ye first that came in was ye Duke, who with much joy I took in my armes and gave God thankes for his safe arrivall. His Highnese called ‘Quickely, quickely, dress me,’ and putting off his cloaths I dressed him in the women’s habitt that was prepared, which fitted his Highnese very well, and was pretty in itt. After hee had eaten something I made ready while I was idle lest his Highnese should be hungry, and having sent for a Woodstreet cake (which I knew he loved) to take in the barge, with as much hast as could bee his Highnese wentt crose the bridge to ye stairs where the large barge lay, Colonel Bamfield leading him; and immediately the boatmen plied the oare so well that they weare soone out of sight, having both wind and tyde with ym.”
The duke was not missed at first, his attendants supposing he had found some secure hiding-place. But as time sped on a thorough search was made, and the Earl of Northumberland, who had charge of the duke, sent to acquaint the Speaker of the House of Commons. Orders were given to stop and search all ships leaving the Cinque Ports, but the clerks employed to write the instructions were slow in making out the papers.
“None of them were able to writt one right, butt ten or twelve of ym were cast by before one was according to their mind.”
So the orders arrived too late.

In 1653 Mistress Anne Murray, while staying in Edinburgh, rendered an important service to the Earl of Balcarres, who was in danger of arrest. She undertook to warn him, and started early in the morning attended by a man-servant, reaching the Earl’s residence before ten o’clock. Lord and Lady Balcarres immediately left the house, and at their request Mistress Murray stayed with the children and packed up the books in trunks, for the Earl had a very fine library.
“I was very desirous,” she writes, “to serve them faithfully in what I was intrusted, and as soone as my Lord and Lady were gone, I made locke up the gates, and with ye helpe of Logan who served my Lord, and one of ye women, both beeing very trusty, I tooke downe all ye bookes, and putting them in trunkes and chests, sentt them all outt of the house in the night to the places appointed by my Lord, taking a short way of inventory to know what sort of bookes were sentt to every person.... The things had nott been two houres outt of the house when the troope of horse came and asked for my Lord.... They searched all the house, and seeing nothing in itt butt bare walls and weemen and children, they wentt away.”
Just before the Restoration, in February, 1660, when Monk caused the secluded members to be re-admitted to what was called a Free Parliament, there was great excitement among the country gentlemen. One of the most notable politicians was Lady Rochester, whose son, Sir Henry Lee, was a candidate. She writes to her friend Mr. Thomas Yates, on February 23—
“This day I received a letter from you with all the good newes in it, for which I give you thanks, and also for the care you tell me you have taken for my sonne Lee’s being chosen a Parliament man in the next election. I was formerly spoken to for Mr. Appletree, whome I must now lay absolutely aside by reason that Sir Ralphe Verney desires to bee one, who is a person whose owne merits is such, as it will bee a happinesse to the place, and they will have cause to give us thanks for him; besides, you know his relation to the childrens businesse obleiges me to doe him any service hee shall comand; if there should be noe oath imposed nor engagement, Sir Ralphe will accept of it himselfe, and if there should be any reason to divest him I shall desire it for his sonne. Good Mr. Yates, next to my sonne Lee, let not Sir Ralphe Verney faile of being chosen. What you shall say to the people of the place to encourage them to it, I shall leave to your prudence, depending uppon your descreation in presenting his merrits, and truly it will bee much to my satisfaction to serve him in this, and it will bee very kindly taken from you by her that is ye
“Your friend and servant,
Anne Rochester.”
Lady Rochester was a person of influence, and was besieged by applications for help. A little later she writes again—
“Here is such a doe about providing for burgeses place the nex perlement, I have ben soe trobeled with Solicitors for those places in the children’s estate that it has bin very trobelsome too mee, but I put them all off with telling them that I am already promised as far as my interest goes; I hope that Yates wil be carefull in securing a place for you and my sonne Lee, and those will bee as many as wee can compas. The town of Mamsbery sent too my sonne Lee that if hee would come in person they did hope too chuse him, though there were at least thirteine that did sue to bee choose in that towne, soe my sonne meanes too goe thether at the election for feare of the worst. Sir, if therebe anything wherein I may serve you more then I doe yet understand, bee pleased to command her that is your friend and servant
Anne Rochester.”
Turning from England to Scotland, we find women playing a notable part at a later period, when the House of Stuart again involved the country in civil war. The Jacobites kept up a political ferment from the time when James II. was impelled to lay down his crown and fly, to the death of his grandson Prince Charlie. The Young Pretender, who has been variously described as the pink of chivalry and a worthless debauchee, was the object of a very real and practical enthusiasm. In Scotland, ladies of rank and wealth enlisted eagerly in his cause. There is very little that is admirable in such partisans of Prince Charlie as Lady Ogilvie and the Duchess of Perth beyond their dauntless courage. But if half the men who flocked to the Young Pretender’s standard had been filled with the fiery spirit of those two notorious Scotchwomen, the course of political events would have been altered. As it was, they materially influenced the action of the leaders of the rebel party. Had it not been for the Duchess, the Duke of Perth would have been but a lukewarm adherent, and certainly would never have bestirred himself to raise a troop for the Prince on his own estate. But the Duchess shamed him into action. She herself went about for three days and nights collecting recruits, and when she had mustered seven hundred and fifty, she caused the Chevalier, as he was called, to be proclaimed by sound of bagpipes and hunting-horns from the walls of Castle Drummond. She accompanied the Scotch army to England, and when the expected reinforcements failed to appear at Carlisle, she told the hesitating Duke that if he turned back she would lead the men herself. She had not only to overcome her husband’s timidity, but to contend with the weakness of the Prince. When he talked of a retreat at Derby, she expressed her disgust in no measured terms, and gave him clearly to understand that she thought him a coward.
“If,” said the indignant lady, “I had as many women in my train as the Prince has men in his, I would not turn my back upon all the power the enemy could bring up.”
Much against her will, she was forced into the rear at the battle of Culloden, and was ultimately taken prisoner.

Her friend, Lady Ogilvie, was likewise always to be found wherever fighting was going on. She was present at the battle of Falkirk and at the siege of Stirling; but, unfortunately, her ferocity of temper marred the excellence of her courage. Her political foes were enemies for whom no measure of retaliation was too harsh. Lady Ogilvie, like the Duchess of Perth, was taken prisoner after Culloden, though she was not present at the battle.

But the heroine of the Jacobite rising was the famous Flora McDonald. The gentle but high-spirited girl, whose name has become a household word, was far from being a politician. When the Prince of Wales visited her in London after her release from the Tower, she said very frankly that she only acted towards Prince Charlie as she would have acted towards his Royal Highness himself had their positions been reversed. Womanly compassion moved her to imperil her life and the prospects of her family to relieve the distresses of a fugitive prince. At the same time she shared the enthusiasm of her country for the house of Stuart. The romantic story of her journey with Prince Charlie attired as her Irish maid-servant has been fully told in other pages. Her want of precaution in not stopping the mouths of the boatmen led to her arrest. Two weary months she spent in prison in Scotland, and was then conveyed to London and confined in the Tower. From this ominous fortress she was removed and placed in charge of a private family, where the Prince of Wales made his totally unexpected visit. Her candour so impressed him that he advised she should be restored to her friends. A free pardon was sent her, and Flora McDonald became the lioness of the London season. To the young Scotch gentlewoman, unaccustomed to the turmoil of fashionable life, and loving the freedom and solitude of the moors, London society soon became oppressive. She writes—
“To be in the fashion in London, the people appeared to me to live more out of their houses than in them; in the afternoon visiting, driving in their family coaches, attending sale-rooms where trumpery articles were sold by auction to the highest bidder, sometimes really scarcely worth taking home; for the principal part of the amusement consisted in the ladies outbidding each other, and generally amongst friends, so that large sums of money used to change hands in this frivolous way, which, no doubt, made their husbands very cross. However, the town ladies would, and I suppose ever will, contrive to have their own way. Then came the formal dinner-parties—oh, how I used to yawn behind my fan!—and often we went to see the play in Drury Lane, and, if it chanced to be a mournful tragedy, I could not help being so silly as to cry, it all seemed so natural and life-like. The best actor was Mr. Garrick, and he certainly was a great man in his profession. Mr. Cibber also was wonderfully clever: these were the first stage performers at that time....”
She goes on to describe how soon she tired of the constant whirl of London fashionable life,234 out all day driving from house to house, and every night at some place.
“I was sick,” she declares, “of the compliments paid me; indeed, in many cases the attentions of the gentlemen went beyond compliments.”
Presently this brilliant figure disappears from English society, and the heroine returns to her native land to marry her kinsman, Allan McDonald, and to become the mother of the celebrated Sir John McDonald.

Compiled from sources in the public domain.

Please take a moment to "Like" Shadows In A Timeless Myth on Amazon.

(Shadows is also available at Barnes & Noble for the Nook)

Complimentary Shadows In A Timeless Myth Short Story
Complimentary Shadows In A Timeless Myth Musical Jigsaw Puzzle
Shadows In A Timeless Myth Book Trailer Video

Shadows In a Timeless Myth on Facebook

Smiles & Good Fortune,
It is not wealth one asks for, but just enough to preserve one’s dignity, to work unhampered, to be generous, frank and independent. W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) Of Human Bondage, 1915

No comments:

Post a Comment