Royalty Restored or London under Charles II.
J. Fitzgerald Molloy

Part 4 out of 7

Now the memory of their wickedness rising before them, dread took
up its abode in all men's hearts; for none knew but his day of
reckoning was at hand. And their consternation was greater when
it was remembered that in the third year of this century thirty-
six thousand citizens of London had died of the plague, while
twenty-five years later it had swept away thirty-five thousand;
and eleven years after full ten thousand persons perished of this
same pestilence. Moreover, but two years previous, a like
scourge had been rife in Holland; and in Amsterdam alone twenty-
four thousand citizens had died from its effects.

And the terror of the citizens of London was yet more forcibly
increased by the appearance in April of a blazing star or comet,
bearing a tail apparently six yards in length, which rose betimes
in a lurid sky, and passed with ominous movement from west to
east. [It is worthy of notice that Lilly in his "Astrological
Predictions," published in 1648, declared the year 1656 would be
"ominous to London, unto her merchants at sea, to her traffique
at land, to her poor, to her rich, to all sorts of people
inhabiting in her or her Liberties, by reason of sundry fires and
a consuming plague."] The king with his queen and court,
prompted by curiosity, stayed up one night to watch this blazing
star pass above the silent city; the Royal Society in behalf of
science embodied many learned comments regarding it in their
"Philosophical Transactions;" but the great body of the people
regarded it as a visible signal of God's certain wrath. They
were more confirmed in this opinion, as some amongst them, whose
judgments were distorted by fears, declared the comet had at
times before their eyes assumed the appearance of a fiery sword
threatening the sinful city. It was also noted in the spring of
this year that birds and wild fowls had left their accustomed
places, and few swallows were seen. But in the previous summer
there had been "such a multitude of flies that they lined the
insides of houses; and if any threads of strings did hang down in
any place, they were presently thick-set with flies like ropes of
onions; and swarms of ants covered the highways that you might
have taken up a handful at a time, both winged and creeping ants;
and such a multitude of croaking frogs in ditches that you might
have heard them before you saw them," as is set down by one
William Boghurst, apothecary at the White Hart in St. Giles-in-
the-Fields, who wrote a learned "Treatis on the Plague" in 1666,
he being the only man who up to that time had done so from
experience and observation. [This quaint and curious production,
which has never been printed, and which furnishes the following
pages with some strange details, is preserved in the Sloane
Collection of Manuscripts in the British Museum.] And from such
signs, as likewise from knowledge that the pestilence daily
increased, all felt a season of bitter tribulation was at hand.

According to "Some Observations of the Plague," written by Dr.
Hedges for use of a peer of the realm, the dread malady was
communicated to London from the Netherlands "by way of
contagion." It first made its appearance in the parishes of St.
Giles and St. Martin's, Westminster, from which directions it
gradually spread to Holborn, Fleet Street, the Strand, and the
city, finally reaching to the east, bringing death invariably in
its train.

The distemper was not only fatal in its termination, but
loathsome in its progress; for the blood of those affected being
poisoned by atmospheric contagion, bred venom in the body, which
burst forth into nauseous sores and uncleanness; or otherwise
preyed with more rapid fatality internally, in some cases causing
death before its victims were assured of disease. Nor did it
spare the young and robust any more than those weak of frame or
ripe with years, but attacking stealthily, killed speedily. It
was indeed the "pestilence that walketh in darkness, and the
destruction that wasteth in the noonday." In the month of May,
when it was yet uncertain if the city would be spared even in
part, persons of position and wealth, and indeed those endowed
with sufficient means to support themselves elsewhere, resolved
to fly from the capital; whilst such as had neither home,
friends, nor expectation of employment in other places, remained
behind. Accordingly great preparations were made by those who
determined on flight; and all day long vast crowds gathered round
my lord mayor's house in St. Helen's, Bishopsgate, seeking
certificates of health, so that for some weeks it was difficult
to reach his door for the throng that gathered there, as is
stated by John Noorthouck. Such official testimonies to the good
health of those leaving London had now become necessary; for the
inhabitants of provincial towns, catching the general alarm,
refused to shelter in their houses, or even let pass through
their streets, the residents of the plague-stricken city, unless
officially assured they were free from the dreaded distemper.
Nay, even with such certificates in their possession, many were
refused admittance to inns, or houses of entertainment, and were
therefore obliged to sleep in fields by night, and beg food by
day, and not a few deaths were caused by want and exposure.

And now were the thoroughfares of the capital crowded all day
long with coaches conveying those who sought safety in flight,
and with waggons and carts containing their household goods and
belongings, until it seemed as if the city mould be left without
a soul. Many merchants and shipowners together with their
families betook themselves to vessels, which they caused to be
towed down the river towards Greenwich, and in which they resided
for months; whilst others sought refuge in smacks and fishing-
boats, using them as shelters by day, and lodging on the banks by
night. Some few families remaining in the capital laid in stores
of provisions, and shutting themselves up securely in their
houses, permitted none to enter or leave, by which means some of
them escaped contagion and death. The court tarried until the
29th of June, and then left for Hampton, none too soon, for the
pestilence had reached almost to the palace gates. The queen
mother likewise departed, retiring into France; from which
country she never returned.

All through the latter part of May, and the whole of the
following month, this flight from the dread enemy of mankind
continued; presenting a melancholy spectacle to those who
remained, until at last the capital seemed veritably a city of
the dead. But for the credit of humanity be it stated, that not
all possessed of health and wealth abandoned the town. Prominent
amongst those who remained were the Duke of Albemarle, Lord
Craven, the lord mayor, Sir John Laurence, some of his aldermen,
and a goodly number of physicians, chirurgeons, and apothecaries,
all of whom by their skill or exertions sought to check the
hungry ravages of death. The offices which medical men
voluntarily performed during this period of dire affliction were
loathsome to a terrible degree. "I commonly dressed forty sores
in a day," says Dr. Boghurst, whose simple words convey a
forcible idea of his nobility; "held the pulse of patients
sweating in their beds half a quarter of an hour together; let
blood; administered clysters to the sick; held them up in their
beds to keep them from strangling and choking, half an hour
together commonly, and suffered their breathing in my face
several times when they were dying; eat and drank with them,
especially those that had sores; sat down by their bedsides and
upon their beds, discoursing with them an hour together. If I
had time I stayed by them to see them die. Then if people had
nobody to help them (for help was scarce at such time and place)
I helped to lay them forth out of the bed, and afterwards into
the coffin; and last of all, accompanied them to the ground."

Of the physicians remaining in the city, nine fell a sacrifice to
duty. Amongst those who survived was the learned Dr. Nathaniel
Hodges, who was spared to meet a philanthropist's fate in penury
and neglect. [Dr. Hodges subsequently wrote a work entitled
"Loimologia; or, an Historical Account of the Plague of London,"
first published in 1672; of which, together with a collection of
the bills of mortality for 1665, entitled "London's Dreadful
Visitation," and a pamphlet by the Rev. Thomas Vincent, "God's
Terrible Voice in the City," printed in 1667, De Foe largely
availed himself in writing his vivid but unreliable "Journal of
the Plague Year," which first saw the light in 1722.] The king
had, on outbreak of the distemper, shown solicitude for his
citizens by summoning a privy council, when a committee of peers
was formed for "Prevention and Spreading of the Infection."
Under their orders the College of Physicians drew up "Certain
necessary Directions for the Prevention and Cure of the Plague,
with Divers remedies for small Change," which were printed in
pamphlet form, and widely distributed amongst the people. [We
learn that at this time the College was stored with "men of
learning, virtue, and probity, nothing acquainted with the little
arts of getting a name by plotting against the honesty and
credulity of the people." The prescriptions given by this worthy
body were consequently received with a simple faith which later
and more sceptical generations might deny them. Perhaps the most
remarkable of these directions, given under the heading of
"Medicines External," was the following: "Pull off the feathers
from the tails of living cocks, hens, pigeons, or chickens, and
holding their bills, hold them hard to the botch or swelling, and
so keep them at that part until they die, and by that means draw
out the poison. It is good to apply a cupping glass, or embers
in a dish, with a handful of sorrel upon the embers."]

The lord mayor, having likewise the welfare of the people at
heart, "conceived and published" rules to be observed, and orders
to be obeyed, by them during this visitation. These directed the
appointment of two examiners for every parish, who were bound to
discover those who were sick, and inquire into the nature of
their illness: and finding persons afflicted by plague, they,
with the members of their family and domestics, were to be
confined in their houses. These were to be securely locked
outside, and guarded day and night by watchmen, whose duty it
should be to prevent persons entering or leaving those
habitations; as likewise to perform such offices as were
required, such as conveying medicines and food. And all houses
visited by the distemper were to be forthwith marked on the door
by a red cross a foot long, with the words LORD HAVE MERCY UPON
US set close over the same sacred sign. Female searchers, "such
as are of honest reputation, and of the best sort as can be got
of the kind," were selected that they might report of what
disease people died; such women not being permitted during this
visitation to use any public work or employment, or keep shop or
stall, or wash linen for the people. Nurses to attend the
afflicted deserted by their friends were also appointed. And
inasmuch as multitudes of idle rogues and wandering beggars
swarming the city were a great means of spreading disease, the
constables had orders not to suffer their presence in the
streets. And dogs and cats, being domestic animals, apt to run
from house to house, and carry infection in their fur and hair,
an order was made that they should be killed, and an officer
nominated to see it carried into execution. It was computed
that, in accordance with this edict, forty thousand dogs, and
five times that number of cats, were massacred.

All plays bear-baitings, exhibitions, and games were forbidden;
as were likewise "all public feasting, and particularly by the
companies of the city, and dinners at taverns, alehouses, and
other places of common entertainment; and the money thereby
spared, be employed for the benefit and relief of the poor
visited with the infection." Pest-houses were opened at Tothill
Fields, Westminster, and at Bunhill Fields, near Old Street, for
reception of the sick: and indeed every possible remedy
calculated to check the disease was adopted. Some of these,
though considered necessary to the well-being of the community,
were by many citizens regarded as hardships, more especially the
rule which related to closing of infected houses.

The misery endured by those in health suffering such confinement,
was scarcely less than that realized by the afflicted. And fear
making way for disease, it frequently occurred a whole family,
when confined with one infected member, speedily became stricken
by plague, and consequently overtaken by death. It therefore
happened that many attempts were made by those in health to
escape incarceration. In some cases they bribed, and in others
ill-treated the watchmen: one of whom was actually blown up by
gunpowder in Coleman Street, that those he guarded might flee
unmolested. Again, it chanced that strong men, rendered
desperate when brought face to face with loathsome death, lowered
themselves from windows of their houses in sight of the watch,
whom they threatened with instant death if they cried out or

The apprehension of the sick, who were in most cases deserted by
their friends, was increased tenfold by the practices of public
nurses: for being hardened to affliction by nature of their
employment, and incapable of remorse for crime by reason of their
vileness, they were guilty of many barbarous usages. "These
wretches," says Dr. Hodges, "out of greediness to plunder the
dead, would strangle their patients, and charge it to the
distemper in their throats. Others would secretly convey the
pestilential taint from sores of the infected to those who were
well; and nothing indeed deterred these abandoned miscreants from
prosecuting their avaricious purposes by all methods their
wickedness could invent; who, although they were without
witnesses to accuse them, yet it is not doubted but divine
vengeance will overtake such wicked barbarities with due
punishment. Nay, some were remarkably struck from heaven in the
perpetration of their crimes; and one particularly amongst many,
as she was leaving the house of a family, all dead, loaded with
her robberies, fell down lifeless under her burden in the street.
And the case of a worthy citizen was very remarkable, who, being
suspected dying by his nurse, was beforehand stripped by her; but
recovering again, he came a second time into the world naked."

But notwithstanding all precautions and care taken by the Duke of
Albemarle and the worthy lord mayor, the dreadful pestilence
spread with alarming rapidity; as may be judged from the fact
that the number who died in the first week of June amounted to
forty-three, whilst during the last week of that month two
hundred and sixty-seven persons were carried to their graves.
From the 4th of July to the 11th, seven hundred and fifty-five
deaths were chronicled; the following eight days the death rate
rose to one thousand and eighty-two; whilst the ensuing week this
high figure was increased by over eight hundred. For the month
of August, the mortality bill recorded seventeen thousand and
thirty-six deaths; and during September, twenty-six thousand two
hundred and thirty persons perished in the city.

The whole British nation was stricken with consternation at the
fate of the capital. "In some houses," says Dr. Hodges, speaking
from personal experience, "carcases lay waiting for burial, and
in others were persons in their last agonies. In one room might
be heard dying groans, in an other the ravings of delirium, and
not far off relations and friends bewailing both their loss and
the dismal prospect of their own sudden departure. Death was the
sure midwife to all children, and infants passed immediately from
the womb to the grave. Some of the infected run about staggering
like drunken men, and fall and expire in the streets; whilst
others lie half dead and comatose, but never to be waked but by
the last trumpet." The plague had indeed encompassed the walls
of the city, and poured in upon it without mercy. A heavy
stifling atmosphere, vapours by day and blotting out all traces
of stars and sky by night, hovered like a palpable shape of dire
vengeance above the doomed city. During many weeks "there was a
general calm and serenity, as if both wind and rain had been
expelled the kingdom, so that there was not so much as to move a
flame." The oppressive silence of brooding death, unbroken now
even by the passing bell, weighed stupor-like upon the wretched
survivors. The thoroughfares were deserted, grass sprang green
upon side-paths and steps of dwellings; and the broad street in
Whitechapel became like unto a field. Most houses bore upon
their doors the dread sign of the red cross, with the
supplication for mercy written above. Some of the streets were
barricaded at both ends, the inhabitants either having fled into
the country or been carried to their graves; and it was estimated
in all that over seven thousand dwellings were deserted. All
commerce, save that dealing with the necessaries of life, was
abandoned; the parks forsaken and locked, the Inns of Court
closed, and the public marts abandoned. A few of the church
doors were opened, and some gathered within that they might
humbly beseech pardon for the past, and ask mercy in the present.
But as the violence of the distemper increased, even the houses
of God were forsaken; and those who ventured abroad walked in the
centre of the street, avoiding contact or conversation with
friend or neighbour; each man dreading and avoiding his fellow,
lest he should be to him the harbinger of death. And all
carried rue and wormwood in their hands, and myrrh and zedoary in
their mouths, as protection against infection. Now were the
faces of all pale with apprehension, none knowing when the fatal
malady might carry them hence; and moreover sad, as became those
who stand in the presence of death.

And such sights were to be witnessed day after day as made the
heart sick. "It would be endless," says the Rev. Thomas Vincent,
"to speak what we have seen and heard; of some, in their frenzy,
rising out of their beds and leaping about their rooms; others
crying and roaring at their windows; some coming forth almost
naked and running into the streets; strange things have others
spoken and done when the disease was upon them: but it was very
sad to hear of one, who being sick alone, and it is like frantic,
burnt himself in his bed. And amongst other sad spectacles
methought two were very affecting: one of a woman coming alone
and weeping by the door where I lived, with a little coffin under
her arm, carrying it to the new churchyard. I did judge that it
was the mother of the child, and that all the family besides was
dead, and she was forced to coffin up and bury with her own hands
this her last dead child. Another was of a man at the corner of
the Artillery Wall, that as I judge, through the dizziness of his
head with the disease, which seized upon him there, had dashed
his face against the wall; and when I came by he lay hanging with
his bloody face over the rails, and bleeding upon the ground;
within half an hour he died in that place."

And as the pestilence increased, it was found impossible to
provide coffins or even separate graves for those who perished.
And therefore, in order to bury the deceased, great carts passed
through the streets after sunset, attended by linkmen and
preceded by a bellman crying in weird and solemn tones, "Bring
out your dead." At the intimation of the watchmen stationed
before houses bearing red crosses upon their doors, the sad
procession would tarry, When coffinless, and oftentimes
shroudless, rigid, loathsome, and malodorous bodies were hustled
into the carts with all possible speed. Then once more the
melancholy cortege took its way adown the dark, deserted street,
the yellow glare of links falling on the ghastly burden they
accompanied, the dirge-like call of the bellman sounding on the
ears of the living like a summons from the dead. And so,
receiving additional freight upon its way, the cart proceeded to
one of the great pits dug in the parish churchyards of Aldgate
and Whitechapel, or in Finsbury Fields close by the Artillery
Ground. These, measuring about forty feet in length, eighteen in
breadth, and twenty in depth, were destined to receive scores of
bodies irrespective of creed or class. The carts being brought
to these dark and weirdsome gulphs, looking all the blacker from
the flickering lights of candles and garish gleams of lanterns
placed beside them, the bodies, without rite or ceremony, were
shot into them, and speedily covered with clay. For the
accomplishment of this sad work night was found too brief. And
what lent additional horror to the circumstances of these burials
was, that those engaged in this duty would occasionally drop
lifeless during their labour. So that it sometimes happened the
dead-carts were found without driver, linkman, or bell-man. And
it was estimated that the parish of Stepney alone lost one
hundred and sixteen gravediggers and sextons within that year.

During the month of September, the pestilence raged with
increased fury; and it now seemed as if the merciless distemper
would never cease whilst a single inhabitant remained in the
city. The lord mayor, having found all remedies to stay its
progress utterly fail, by advice of the medical faculty, ordered
that great fires should be kindled in certain districts, by way
of purifying the air, Accordingly, two hundred chaldrons of coal,
at four pounds a chaldron, were devoted to this purpose. At
first the fires were with great difficulty made to burn, through
the scarcity, it was believed, of oxygen in the atmosphere; but
once kindled, they continued blazing for three days and three
nights, when a heavy downpour of rain falling they were
extinguished. The following night death carried off four
thousand souls, and the experiment of these cleansing fires was
discontinued. All through this month fear and tribulation
continued; the death rate, from the 5th of September to the 3rd
of October, amounting to twenty-four thousand one hundred and

During October, the weather being cool and dry, the pestilence
gave promise of rapid decrease. Hope came to the people, and was
received with eager greeting. Once more windows were
unshuttered, doors were opened, and the more venturous walked
abroad. The great crisis had passed. In the middle of the month
Mr. Pepys travelled on foot to the Tower, and records his
impressions. "Lord," he says, "how empty the streets are and
melancholy, so many poor sick people in the streets full of
sores; and so many sad stories overheard as I walk, everybody
talking of this dead, and that man sick, and so many in this
place, and so many in that. And they tell me that in Westminster
there is never a physician and but one apothecary left, all being
dead; but that there are great hopes of a decrease this week.
God send it."

The while, trade being discontinued, those who had lived by
commerce or labour were supported by charity. To this good
purpose the king contributed a thousand pounds per week, and Dr.
Sheldon, Archbishop of Canterbury--who remained at Lambeth during
the whole time--by letters to his bishops, caused great sums to
be collected throughout the country and remitted to him for this
laudable purpose. Nor did those of position or wealth fail in
responding to calls made upon them at this time; their
contributions being substantial enough to permit the lord mayor
to distribute upwards of one hundred thousand pounds a week
amongst the poor and afflicted for several months.

In October the death rate fell to nine thousand four hundred and
forty-four; in November to three thousand four hundred and forty-
nine; and in December to less than one thousand. Therefore,
after a period of unprecedented suffering, the people took
courage once more, for life is dear to all men. And those who
had fled the plague-stricken city returned to find a scene of
desolation, greater in its misery than words can describe. But
the tide of human existence having once turned, the capital
gradually resumed its former appearance. Shops which had been
closed were opened afresh; houses whose inmates had been carried
to the grave became again centres of activity; the sound of
traffic was heard in streets long silent; church bells called the
citizens to prayer; marts were crowded; and people wore an air of
cheerfulness becoming the survivors of a calamity. And so all
things went on as before.

The mortality bills computed the number of burials which took
place in London during this year at ninety-seven thousand three
hundred and six, of which sixty-eight thousand five hundred find
ninety-six were attributed to the plague. This estimate has been
considered by all historians as erroneous. For on the first
appearance of the distemper, the number of deaths set down was
far below that which truth warranted, in order that the citizens
might not be affrighted; and when it was at its height no exact
account of those shifted from the dead-carts into the pits was
taken. Moreover, many were buried by their friends in fields and
gardens. Lord Clarendon, an excellent authority, states that
though the weekly bills reckoned the number of deaths at about
one hundred thousand, yet "many who could compute very well,
concluded that there were in truth double that number who died;
and that in one week, when the bill mentioned only six thousand,
there had in truth fourteen thousand died."


A cry of fire by night.--Fright and confusion.--The lord mayor is
unmanned.--Spread of the flames.--Condition of the streets.--
Distressful scenes.--Destruction of the Royal Exchange.--Efforts
of the king and Duke of York.--Strange rumours and alarms.--St.
Paul's is doomed.--The flames checked.--A ruined city as seen by
day and night.--Wretched state of the people.--Investigation into
the origin of the fire.--A new city arises.

Scarcely had the city of London recovered from the dire effects
of the plague, ere a vast fire laid it waste. It happened on the
2nd of September, 1666, that at two o'clock in the morning, the
day being Sunday, smoke and flames were seen issuing from the
shop of a baker named Faryner, residing in Pudding Lane, close by
Fish Street, in the lower part of the city. The house being
built of wood, and coated with pitch, as were likewise those
surrounding it, and moreover containing faggots, dried logs, and
other combustible materials, the fire spread with great rapidity:
so that in a short time not only the baker's premises, but the
homesteads which stood next it on either side were in flames.

Accordingly, the watchman's lusty cry of "Fire, fire, fire!"
which had roused the baker and his family in good time to save
their lives, was now shouted down the streets with consternation,
startling sleepers from their dreams, and awaking them to a sense
of peril. Thereon they rose promptly from their beds, and
hastily throwing on some clothes, rushed out to rescue their
neighbours' property from destruction, and subdue the threatening

And speedily was heard the tramp of many feet hurrying to the
scene, and the shouting of anxious voices crying for help; and
presently the bells of St. Margaret's church close by, ringing
with wild uneven peals through the darkness, aroused all far and
near to knowledge of the disaster. For already the flames,
fanned by a high easterly wind, and fed by the dry timber of the
picturesque old dwellings huddled close together, had spread in
four directions.

One of these being Thames Street, the consequence was terrible,
for the shops and warehouses of this thoroughfare containing
inflammable materials, required for the shipping trade, such as
oil, pitch, tar, and rosin, the houses at one side the street
were immediately wrapped, from basement to garret, in sheets of
angry flame. And now flaunting its yellow light skywards, as if
exulting in its strength, and triumphing in its mastery over
men's efforts, the fire rushed to the church of St. Magnus, a
dark solid edifice standing at the foot of London Bridge. The
frightened citizens concluded the conflagration must surely end
here; or at least that whilst it endeavoured to consume a dense
structure such as this, they might succeed in subduing its force;
but their hopes were vain. At first the flames shot upwards to
the tower of the building, but not gaining hold, retreated as if
to obtain fresh strength for new efforts; and presently darting
forward again, they seized the woodwork of the belfry windows. A
few minutes later the church blazed at every point, and was in
itself a colossal conflagration.

From this the fire darted to the bridge, burning the wooden
houses built upon it, and the water machines underneath, and
likewise creeping up Thames Street, on that side which was yet
undemolished. By this time the bells of many churches rang out
in sudden fright, as if appealing to heaven for mercy on behalf
of the people; and the whole east end of the town rose up in
alarm. The entire city seemed threatened with destruction, for
the weather having long been dry and warm, prepared the
homesteads for their fate; and it was noted some of them, when
scorched by the approaching fire, ignited before the flames had
time to reach them.

Sir Thomas Bludworth, the lord mayor, now arrived in great haste,
but so amazed was he at the sight he beheld, and so bewildered by
importunities of those who surrounded him, that he was powerless
to act. Indeed, his incapacity to direct, and inability to
command, as well as his lack of moral courage, have been heavily
and frequently blamed. Bring a weak man, fearful of outstepping
his authority, he at first forebore pulling down houses standing
in the pathway of the flames, as suggested to him, a means that
would assuredly have prevented their progress; but when urged to
this measure would reply, he "durst not, without the consent of
the owners." And when at last, after great destruction had taken
place, word was brought him from the king to "spare no house, but
pull them down everywhere before the fire," he cried out "like a
fainting woman," as Pepys recounts, "Lord! what can I do? I am
spent; people will not obey me."

Meanwhile, great bodies of the citizens of all classes had been
at work; some upon the cumbrous engines, others carrying water,
others levelling houses, but all their endeavours seemed
powerless to quell the raging flames. And it was notable when
first the pipes in the streets were opened, no water could be
found, whereon a messenger was sent to the works at Islington, in
order to turn on the cocks, so that much time was lost in this
manner. All through Sunday morning the flames extended far and
wide, and in a few hours three hundred houses were reduced to
ashes. Not at midday, nor yet at night, did they give promise of
abatement. The strong easterly wind continuing to blow, the
conflagration worked its way to Cannon Street, from thence
gradually encompassing the dwellings which lay between that
thoroughfare and the Thames, till the whole seemed one vast plain
of raging fire.

The streets now presented a scene of the uttermost confusion and
distress. The affrighted citizens, whose dwellings were
momentarily threatened with destruction, hurried to and fro,
striving to save those of their families who by reason of
infancy, age or illness were unable to help themselves. Women on
the eve of child-birth were carried from their beds; mothers with
infants clinging to their naked breasts fled from homes which
would shelter them no more; the decrepit were borne away on the
shoulders of the strong. The narrow thoroughfares were moreover
obstructed by furniture dragged from houses, or lowered from
windows with a reckless speed that oftentimes destroyed what it
sought to preserve. Carts, drays, and horses laden with
merchandise jostled each other in their hurried way towards the
fields outside the city walls. Men young and vigorous crushed
forward with beds or trunks upon their backs; children laboured
under the weight of bundles, or rolled barrels of oil, wine, or
spirits before them. And the air, rendered suffocating by smoke
and flame, was moreover confused by the crackling of consuming
timber, the thunder of falling walls, the crushing of glass, the
shrieks of women, and the imprecations of men.

And those who lived near the waterside, or in houses on the
bridges, hurried their goods and chattels into boats, barges, and
lighters, in which they likewise took refuge. For the
destruction of wharfs and warehouses, containing stores of most
inflammable nature, was brief and desperate. The Thames, now
blood-red from reflection of the fierce sky, was covered with
craft of all imaginable shape and size. Showers of sparks blown
by the high wind fell into the water with hissing sounds, or on
the clothes and faces of the people with disastrous and painful
effects; and the smoke and heat were hard to bear. And it was
remarked that flocks of pigeons, which for generations had found
shelter in the eaves and roofs of wooden houses by the riverside,
were loath to leave their habitations; and probably fearing to
venture afar by reason of the unwonted aspect of the angry sky,
lingered on the balconies and abutments of deserted houses, until
in some cases, the flames enwrapping them, they fell dead into
the waters below.

On Sunday evening Gracechurch Street was on fire; and the flames
spread onwards till they reached, and in their fury consumed, the
Three Cranes in the Vintry. Night came, but darkness had fled
from the city; and for forty miles round all was luminous. And
there were many who in the crimson hue of the heavens, beheld an
evidence of God's wrath at the sins of the nation, which it was
now acknowledged were many and great.

Throughout Sunday night the fire grew apace, and those who, in
the morning had carried their belongings to parts of the city
which they believed would by distance ensure safety, were now
obliged to move them afresh, the devastation extending for miles.
Therefore many were compelled to renew their labours, thereby
suffering further fatigue; and they now trusted to no protection
for their property save that which the open fields afforded.
Monday morning came and found the flames yet raging. Not only
Gracechurch Street, but Lombard Street, and part of Fenchurch
street, were on fire. Stately mansions, comfortable homes,
warehouses of great name, banks of vast wealth, were reduced to
charred and blackened walls or heaps of smoking ruins. Buildings
had been pulled down, but now too late to render service; for the
insatiable fire, yet fed by a high wind, had everywhere marched
over the dried woodwork and mortar as it lay upon the ground, and
communicated itself to the next block of buildings; so that its
circumvention was regarded as almost an impossibility.

During Monday the flames attacked Cornhill, and then commenced to
demolish the Royal Exchange. Having once made an entrance in
this stately building it revelled in triumph; climbing up the
walls, roaring along the courts and galleries, and sending
through the broken windows volleys of smoke and showers of
sparks, which threatened to suffocate and consume those who
approached. Then the roof fell with a mighty crash, which seemed
for a time to subdue the powerful conflagration; the walls
cracked, parted, and fell; statues of kings and queens were flung
from their niches; and in a couple of hours this building, which
had been the pride and glory of British Merchants, was a
blackened ruin.

The citizens were now in a state of despair. Upwards of ten
thousand houses were in a blaze, the fire extending, according to
Evelyn, two miles in length and one in breadth, and the smoke
reaching near fifty miles in length. Mansions, churches,
hospitals, halls, and schools crumbled into dust as if at
blighting touch of some most potent and diabolical magician.
Quite hopeless now of quenching the flames, bewildered by loss,
and overcome by terror, the citizens, abandoning themselves to
despair, made no further effort to conquer this inappeasable
fire; but crying aloud in their distraction, behaved as those who
had lost their wits. The king and the Duke of York, who on
Sunday had viewed the conflagration from the Thames, now alarmed
at prospect of the whole capital being laid waste, rode into the
city, and by their presence, coolness and example roused the
people to fresh exertions. Accordingly, citizens and soldiers
worked with renewed energy and courage; whilst his majesty and
his brother, the courtiers and the lord mayor, mixed freely with
the crowd, commanding and directing them in their labours.

But now a new terror rose up amongst the citizens, for news
spread that the Dutch and French--with whom England was then at
war--and moreover the papists, whom the people then abhorred, had
conspired to destroy the capital. And the suddenness with which
the flames had appeared in various places, and the rapidity with
which they spread, leading the distracted inhabitants to favour
this report, a strong desire for immediate revenge took
possession of their hearts.

Accordingly all foreigners were laid hold of, kicked, beaten, and
abused by infuriated mobs, from which they were rescued only to
be flung into prison. And this conduct was speedily extended to
the catholics, even when such were known to be faithful and well-
approved good citizens. For though at first it spread as a
rumour, it was now received as a certainty that they, in
obedience to the wily and most wicked Jesuits, had determined to
lay waste an heretical city. Nor were there wanting many ready
to bear witness they had seen these dreaded papists fling fire-
balls into houses of honest citizens, and depart triumphing in
their fiendish deeds. So that when they ventured abroad they
were beset by great multitudes, and their lives were imperilled.
And news of this distraction, which so forcibly swayed the
people, reaching the king, he speedily despatched the members of
his privy council to several quarters of the city, that in person
they might guard such of his subjects as stood in danger.

Lord Hollis and Lord Ashley were assigned Newgate Market and the
streets that lie around, as parts where they were to station
themselves. And it happened that riding near the former place
they saw a vast number of people gathered together, shouting with
great violence, and badly using one who stood in their midst.
Whereon they hastened towards the spot and found the ill-treated
man to be of foreign aspect. Neither had he hat, cloak, nor
sword; his face was covered with blood, his jerkin was torn in
pieces, and his person was bedaubed by mud. And on examination
it was found he was unable to speak the English tongue; but Lord
Hollis, entering into conversation with him in the French
language, ascertained that he was a servant of the Portuguese
ambassador, and knew not of what he was accused, or why he had
been maltreated.

Hereon a citizen of good standing pressed forward and alleged he
had truly seen this man put his hand in his pocket and throw a
fire-ball into a shop, upon which the house immediately took
flame; whereon, being on the other side of the street, he called
aloud that the people might stop this abominable villain. Then
the citizens had seized upon him, taking away his sword, and used
him according to their will. My Lord Hollis explaining this to
the foreigner, he was overcome by amazement at the charge; and
when asked what he had thrown into the house, made answer he had
not flung anything. But he remembered well, whilst walking in
the street, he saw a piece of bread upon the ground, which he, as
was the custom in his country took up. Afterwards he laid it
upon a shelf in a neighbouring house, which being close by, my
Lords Hollis and Ashley, followed by a dense crowd, conducted
him thither, and found the bread laid upon a board as he had
stated. It was noted the next house but one was on fire, and on
inquiry it was ascertained that the worthy citizen, seeing a
foreigner place something inside a shop without tarrying, and
immediately after perceiving a dwelling in flames, which in his
haste he took to be the same, he had charged the man with
commission of this foul deed. But even though many were
convinced of his innocence, my Lord Hollis concluded the
stranger's life would be in safer keeping if he were committed to
prison, which was accordingly done.

Meanwhile the fire continued; and on Monday night and Tuesday
raged with increasing violence. The very heart of the city was
now eaten into by this insatiable monster: Soper Lane, Bread
Street, Friday Street, Old Change, and Cheapside being in one
blaze. It was indeed a spectacle to fill all beholding it with
consternation; but that which followed was yet more terrible, for
already St. Paul's Cathedral was doomed to destruction.

Threatened on one side by the flames devastating Cheapside, and
on the other from those creeping steadily up from Blackfriars to
this great centre, it was now impossible to save the venerable
church, which Evelyn terms "one of the most ancient pieces of
early Christian piety in the world." Seen by this fierce light,
and overhung by a crimson sky, every curve of its dark outline,
every stone of its pillars and abutments, every column of its
incomparable portico, stood clearly defined, so that never had it
looked so stately and magnificent, so vast and majestic, as now
when beheld for the last time.

Too speedily the fire advanced, watched by sorrowful eyes; but
even before it had reached the scaffolding now surrounding the
building, the vaulted roof, ignited by showers of sparks, burst
into flames. Then followed a scene unspeakably grand, yet
melancholy beyond all telling. In a few moments a pale yellow
light had crept along the parapets, sending faint clouds of smoke
upwards, as if more forcibly marking the course of destruction.
Then came the crackling, hissing sounds of timber yielding to the
fire, and soon a great sheet of lead which covered the roof, and
was said to measure six acres, melting by degrees, down came on
every side a terrible rain of liquid fire that seamed and burned
the ground, and carried destruction with it in its swift course
towards the Thames.

And now, by reason of the fearful heat, great projections of
Portland stone, cornices, and capitals of columns, flew off
before the fire had time to reach them. Windows melted in their
frames, pillars fell to the ground, ironwork bent as wax; nay,
the very pavements around glowed so that neither man nor horse
dared tread upon them. And the flames, gradually gaining ground,
danced fantastically up and down the scaffolding, and covered the
edifice as with one blaze; whilst inside transom beams were
snapped asunder, rafters fell with destruction, and the fire
roaring through chapels and aisles as in a great furnace, could
be heard afar. And that which had been a Christian shrine was
now, a smoking ruin.

Raging onward in their fierce career, the flames darted towards
such buildings in the neighbourhood as had been previously
untouched, so that Paternoster Row, Newgate Street, the Old
Bailey and Ludgate Hill were soon in course of destruction. And
from the latter spot the conflagration, urged by the wind,
rapidly rushed onwards towards Fleet Street. On the other hand,
it extended from Cheapside to Ironmongers' Lane, Old Jewry,
Lawrence Lane, Milk Street, Wood Street, Gutter Lane, and Foster
Lane; and again spreading from Newgate Street, it surrounded and
destroyed Christ Church, burned through St. Martin's-le-Grand
towards Aldgate, and threatened to continue its triumphant march
to the suburbs.

For several miles nothing but raging fire and smoking ruins was
visible, for desolation had descended on the city. It was now
feared the flames would reach the Palace of Whitehall, and extend
towards Westminster Abbey, a consideration which caused much
alarm to his majesty, who prized the sacred fane exceedingly.
And now the king was determined the orders he had already issued
should be obeyed, and that houses standing in direct path of the
fire should be demolished by gunpowder; so that, a greater gap
being effected than any previously made by pulling them down, the
conflagration might have no further material wherewith to
strengthen and feed its further progress.

This plan, Evelyn states, had been proposed by some stout seamen
early enough to have saved nearly the whole city; "but this some
tenacious and avaricious men, aldermen, etc., would not permit,
because their houses would have been the first." Now, however,
this remedy was tried, and with greater despatch, because the
fire threatened the Tower and the powder magazine it contained.
And if the flames once reached this, London Bridge would
assuredly be destroyed, the vessels in the river torn and sunk,
and incalculable damage to life and property effected.

Accordingly Tower Street, which had already become ignited, was,
under supervision of the king, blown up in part, and the fire
happily brought to an end by this means in that part of the town.
Moreover, on Wednesday morning the east wind, which had continued
high from Sunday night, now subsided, so that the flames lost
much of their vehemence, and by means of explosions were more
easily mastered at Leadenhall and in Holborn, and likewise at the
Temple, to which places they had spread during Wednesday and

During these latter days, the king and the Duke of York betrayed
great vigilance, and laboured with vast activity; the latter
especially, riding from post to post, by his example inciting
those whose courage had deserted them, and by his determination
overcoming destruction. On Thursday the dread conflagration,
after raging for five consecutive days and nights, was at length

On Friday morning the sun rose like a ball of crimson fire above
a scene of blackness, ruin, and desolation. Whole streets were
levelled to the ground, piles of charred stones marked where
stately churches had stood, smoke rose in clouds from smouldering
embers. With sorrowful hearts many citizens traversed the scene
of desolation that day; amongst others Pepys and Evelyn. The
latter recounts that "the ground and air, smoke and fiery vapour,
continu'd so intense, that my haire was almost sing'd, and my
feete unsuffurably surbated. The people who now walk'd about ye
ruines appear'd like men in some dismal desert, or rather in some
greate citty laid waste by a cruel enemy; to which was added that
stench that came from some poore creatures' bodies, beds, and
other combustible goods."

It would have been impossible to trace the original course of the
streets, but that some gable, pinnacle, or portion of walls, of
churches, halls, or mansions, indicated where they had stood.
The narrower thoroughfares were completely blocked by rubbish;
massive iron chains, then used to prevent traffic at night in the
streets, were melted, as were likewise iron gates of prisons, and
the hinges of strong doors. Goods stored away in cellars and
subterranean passages of warehouses yet smouldered, emitting foul
odours; wells were completely choked, fountains were dried at
their sources. The statues of monarchs which had adorned the
Exchange, were smashed; that of its founder, Sir Thomas Gresham,
alone remaining entire. The ruins of St. Paul's, with its walls
standing black and cheerless, presented in itself a most
melancholy spectacle. Its pillars were embedded in ashes, its
cornices irretrievably destroyed, its great bell reduced to a
shapeless mass of metal; whilst its general air of desolation was
heightened by the fact that a few monuments, which had escaped
destruction, rose abruptly from amidst the charred DEBRIS.

But if the ruins of the capital looked sad by day, their
appearance was more appalling when seen by light of the moon,
which rose nightly during the week following this great calamity.
From the city gates, standing gaunt, black, and now unguarded, to
the Temple, the level waste seemed sombre as a funeral pall;
whilst the Thames, stripped of wharves and warehouses, quaintly
gabled homes, and comfortable inns--wont to cast pleasant lights
and shadows on its surface--now swept past the blackened ruins a
melancholy river of white waters.

In St. George's Fields, Moorfields, and far as Highgate for
several miles, citizens of all degrees, to the number of two
hundred thousand, had gathered: sleeping in the open fields, or
under canvas tents, or in wooden sheds which they hurriedly
erected. Some there were amongst them who had been used to
comfort and luxury, but who were now without bed or board, or
aught to cover them save the clothes in which they had hastily
dressed when fleeing from the fire. And to many it seemed as if
they had only been saved from one calamity to die by another:
for they had nought wherewith to satisfy their hunger, yet had
too much pride to seek relief.

And whilst yet wildly distracted by their miserable situation,
weary from exhaustion, and nervous from lack of repose, a panic
arose in their midst which added much to their distress. For
suddenly news was spread that the French, Dutch and English
papists were marching on them, prepared to cut their throats. At
which, broken-spirited as they were, they rose up, and leaving
such goods that they had saved, rushed towards Westminster to
seek protection from their imaginary foes. On this, the king
sought to prove the falsity of their alarm, and with infinite
difficulty persuaded them to return to the fields: whence he
despatched troops of soldiers, whose presence helped to calm
their fears.

And the king having, moreover, tender compassion for their wants,
speedily sought to supply them. He therefore summoned a council
that it might devise means of relief; and as a result, it
published a proclamation ordering that bread and all other
provisions, such as could be furnished, should be daily and
constantly brought, not only to the markets formerly in use, but
also to Clerkenwell, Islington, Finsbury Fields, Mile End Green,
and Ratcliffe, for greater convenience of the citizens. For
those who were unable to buy provisions, the king commanded the
victualler of his navy to send bread into Moorfields, and
distribute it amongst them. And as divers distressed people had
saved some of their goods, of which they knew not where to
dispose, he ordered that churches, chapels, schools, and such
like places in and around Westminster, should be free and open to
receive and protect them. He likewise directed that all cities
and towns should, without contradiction or opposition, receive
the citizens and permit them free exercise of their manual
labours: he promising, when the present exigency had passed
away, to take care the said persons should be no burden to such
towns as received them.

The people were therefore speedily relieved. Many of them found
refuge with their friends and relatives in the country, and
others sought homes in the districts of Westminster and
Southwark: so that in four days from the termination of the
fire, there was scarce a person remaining in the fields, where
such numbers had taken refuge.

The first hardships consequent to the calamity having passed
away, people were anxious to trace the cause of their sufferings,
which they were unwilling to consider accidental. A rumour
therefore sprang up, that the great fire resulted from a wicked
plot, hatched by Jesuits, for the destruction of an heretical
city. At this the king was sorely troubled; for though there was
no evidence which led him to place faith in the report, yet a
great body of the citizens and many members of his council held
it true. Therefore, in order to appease such doubts as arose in
his mind, and likewise to satisfy the people, he appointed his
privy council to sit morning and evening to inquire into the
matter, and examine evidences set forth against those who had
been charged with the outrage and cast into prison during the

And in order that the investigation might be conducted with
greater rigour he sent into the country for the lord chief
justice, who was dreaded by all for his unflinching severity.
The lord chancellor, in his account of these transactions,
assures us many of the witnesses who gave evidence against those
indicted with firing the capital "were produced as if their
testimony would remove all doubts, but made such senseless
relations of what they had been told, without knowing the
condition of the persons who told them, or where to find them,
that it was a hard matter to forbear smiling at their
declarations." Amongst those examined was one Roger Hubert, who
accused himself of having deliberately set the city on fire.
This man, then in his twenty-fifth year, was son of a watchmaker
residing in Rouen. Hubert had practised the same trade both in
that town and in London, and was believed by his fellow workmen
to be demented. When brought before the chief justice and privy
council, Hubert with great coolness stated he had set the first
house on fire: for which act he had been paid a year previously
in Paris. When asked who had hired him to accomplish this evil
deed, he replied he did not know, for he had never seen the man
before: and when further questioned regarding the sum he had
received, he declared it was but one pistole, but he had been
promised five pistoles more when he should have done his work.
These ridiculous answers, together with some contradictory
statements he made, inclined many persons, amongst whom was the
chief justice, to doubt his confession. Later on in his
examinations, he was asked if he knew where the house had stood
which he set on fire, to which he replied in the affirmative, and
on being taken into the city, pointed out the spot correctly.

In the eyes of many this was regarded as proof of his guilt;
though others stated that, having lived in the city, he must
necessarily become acquainted with the position of the baker's
shop. Opinion was therefore somewhat divided regarding him. The
chief justice told the king "that all his discourse was so
disjointed that he did not believe him guilty." Yet having
voluntarily accused himself of a monstrous deed, and being
determined as it seemed to rid himself of life, he was
condemned to death and speedily executed.

Lord Clarendon says: "Neither the judges nor any present at the
trial did believe him guilty; but that he was a poor distracted
wretch, weary of his life, and chose to part with it in this way.
Certain it is that upon the strictest examination that could be
afterwards made by the king's command, and then by the diligence
of the House, that upon the jealousy and rumour made a committee,
that was very diligent and solicitous to make that discovery,
there was never any probable evidence (that poor creature's only
excepted) that there was any other cause of that woful fire than
the displeasure of God Almighty: the first accident of the
beginning in a baker's house, where there was so great a stock of
faggots, and the neighbourhood of such combustible matter, of
pitch and rosin, and the like, led it in an instant from house to
house, through Thames Street, with the agitation of so terrible a
wind to scatter and disperse it."

But belief that the dreaded papists had set fire to the city,
lingered in the minds of many citizens. When the city was
rebuilt, this opinion found expression in an inscription cut over
the doorway of a house opposite the spot where the fire began,
which ran as follows:

"Here, by the permission of heaven, hell broke loose on this
protestant city from the malicious hearts of barbarous papists,
by the hand of their agent Hubert, who confessed, and on the
ruins of this place declared the fact, for which he was hanged.
Erected in the mayoralty of Sir Patience Ward, Knight."

The loss caused by this dreadful conflagration was estimated at
ten million sterling. According to a certificate of Jonas Moore
and Ralph Gatrix, surveyors appointed to examine the ruins, the
fire overrun 373 acres within the walls, burning 13,200 houses,
89 parish churches, numerous chapels, the Royal Exchange, Custom
House, Guildhall, Blackwell Hall, St. Paul's Cathedral,
Bridewell, fifty-two halls of the city companies, and three city

As speedily as might be, the king and his parliament then sitting
at Oxford, sought to restore the city on a scale vastly superior
to its former condition. And the better to effect this object,
an act of parliament was passed that public buildings should be
rebuilt with public money, raised by a tax on coals; that the
churches and the cathedral of St. Paul's should be reconstructed
from their foundations; that bridges, gates and prisons should be
built anew; the streets made straight and regular, such as were
steep made level, such as were narrow made wide; and, moreover,
that every house should be built with party walls, such being of
stone or brick, and all houses raised to equal height in front.

And these rules being observed, a stately and magnificent city
rose phoenix-like from ruins of the old; so that there was naught
to remind the inhabitants of their great calamity save the
Monument. This, designed by Sir Christopher Wren, and built at a
cost of fourteen thousand five hundred pounds, was erected near
where the fire broke out, the better to perpetuate a memory of
this catastrophe in the minds of future generations, which
purpose it fulfils unto this day.


The court repairs to Oxford.--Lady Castlemaine's son.--Their
majesties return to Whitehall.--The king quarrels with his
mistress.--Miss Stuart contemplates marriage.--Lady Castlemaine
attempts revenge.--Charles makes an unpleasant discovery.--The
maid of honour elopes.--His majesty rows down the Thames.--Lady
Castlemaine's intrigues.--Fresh quarrels at court.--The king on
his knees.

The while such calamities befell the citizens, the king continued
to divert himself in his usual fashion. On the 29th of June,
1665, whilst death strode apace through the capital, reaping full
harvests as he went, their majesties left Whitehall for Hampton
Court, From here they repaired to Salisbury, and subsequently to
Oxford, where Charles took up his residence in Christchurch, and
the queen at Merton College.

Removed from harrowing scenes of ghastliness and distress, the
court made merry. Joined by fair women and gallant men, their
majesties played at bowls and tennis in the grassy meads of the
college grounds; rode abroad in great hawking parties; sailed
through summer days upon the smooth waters of the river Isis; and
by night held revelry in the massive-beamed oak-panelled halls,
from which scarce five-score candles served to chase all gloom.

It happened whilst life thus happily passed, at pleasant full-
tide flow, my Lady Castlemaine, who resided in the same college
with her majesty, gave birth on the 28th of December to another
son, duly baptized George Fitzroy, and subsequently created Duke
of Northumberland. By this time, the plague having subsided in
the capital, and all danger of infection passed away, his majesty
was anxious to reach London, yet loth to leave his mistress, whom
he visited every morning, and to whom he exhibited the uttermost
tenderness. And his tardiness to return becoming displeasing to
the citizens, and they being aware of its cause, it was whispered
in taverns and cried in the streets, "The king cannot go away
till my Lady Castlemaine be ready to come along with him," which
truth was found offensive on reaching the royal ears.

Towards the end of January, 1666, he returned to Whitehall, and a
month later the queen, who had been detained by illness, joined
him. Once more the thread of life was taken up by the court at
the point where it had been broken, and woven into the motley web
of its strange history. Unwearied by time, unsatiated by
familiarity, the king continued his intrigue with the imperious
Castlemaine, and with great longing likewise made love to the
beautiful Stuart. But yet his pursuit of pleasure was not always
attended by happiness; inasmuch as he found himself continually
involved in quarrels with the countess, which in turn covered him
with ridicule in the eyes of his courtiers, and earned him
contempt in the opinions of his subjects.

One of these disturbances, which occurred soon after his return
from Oxford, began at a royal drawing-room, in presence of the
poor slighted queen and ladies of the court. It happened in the
course of conversation her majesty remarked to the countess she
feared the king had taken cold by staying so late at her
lodgings; to which speech my Lady Castlemaine with some show of
temper answered aloud, "he did not stay so late abroad with her,
for he went betimes thence, though he do not before one, two, or
three in the morning, but must stay somewhere else." The king,
who had entered the apartment whilst she was speaking, came up to
her, and displeased with the insinuations she expressed, declared
she was a bold, impertinent woman, and bade her begone from the
court, and not return until he sent for her. Accordingly she
whisked from the drawing-room, and drove at once to Pall Mall,
where she hired apartments.

Her indignation at being addressed by Charles in such a manner
before the court, was sufficiently great to beget strong desires
for revenge; when she swore she would be even with him and print
his letters to her for public sport. In cooler moments, however,
she abandoned this idea; and in course of two or three days, not
hearing from his majesty, she despatched a message to him, not
entreating pardon, but asking permission to send for her
furniture and belongings. To this the monarch, who had begun to
miss her presence and long for her return, replied she must first
come and view them; and then impatient for reconciliation, he
sought her, and they became friends once more. And by way of
sealing the bond of pacification, the king soon after agreed to
pay her debts, amounting to the sum of thirty thousand pounds,
which had been largely incurred by presents bestowed by her upon
her lovers.

His majesty was not only rendered miserable by the constant
caprices and violent temper of the countess, but likewise by the
virtue and coldness Miss Stuart betrayed since her return from
Oxford. The monarch was sorely troubled to account for her
bearing, and attributing it to jealousy, sought to soothe her
supposed uneasiness by increasing his chivalrous attentions. Her
change of behaviour, however, proceeded from another cause. The
fair Stuart, though childlike in manner, was shrewd at heart; and
was moreover guided invariably by her mother, a lady who reaped
wisdom from familiarity with courts. Therefore the maid of
honour, seeing she had given the world occasion to think she had
lost her virtue, declared she was ready to "marry any gentleman
of fifteen hundred a year that would have her in honour."

This determination she was obliged to keep-secret from the king,
lest his anger should fall upon such as sought her, and so
interfere with her matrimonial prospects. Now with such
intentions in her mind she pondered well on an event which had
happened to her, such as no woman who has had like experience
ever forgets; namely, that amongst the many who professed to love
her, one had proposed to marry her. This was Charles Stuart,
fourth Duke of Richmond, a man possessed of neither physical
gifts nor mental abilities; who was, moreover, a widower, and a

However, the position which her union with him would ensure was
all she could desire, and he renewing his suit at this time, she
consequently consented to marry him. Now though it was probable
she could keep her design from knowledge of her royal lover, it
was scarcely possible she could hide it from observation of his
mistress. And the latter, knowing the extent to which fair
Frances Stuart shared his majesty's heart, and being likewise
aware of the coldness with which his protestations were by her
received, scorned the king and detested the maid. Lady
Castlemaine therefore resolved to use her knowledge of Miss
Stuart's contemplated marriage, for purpose of enraging the
jealousy of the one, and destroying the influence of the other.
In order to accomplish such desirable ends she quietly awaited
her opportunity. This came in due time.

It happened one evening when his majesty had been visiting
Frances Stuart in her apartments, and had returned to his own in
a condition of ill-humour and disappointment, the countess, who
had been some days out of favour, suddenly presented herself
before him, and in a bantering tone, accompanied by ironical
smiles, addressed him.

"I hope," said she, "I may be allowed to pay you my homage,
although the angelic Stuart has forbidden you to see me at my own
house. I will not make use of reproaches and expostulations
which would disgrace myself; still less will I endeavour to
excuse frailties which nothing can justify, since your constancy
for me deprives me of all defence, considering I am the only
person you have honoured with your tenderness, who has made
herself unworthy of it by ill-conduct. I come now, therefore,
with no other intent than to comfort and condole with you upon
the affliction and grief into which the coldness or new-fashioned
chastity of the inhuman Stuart has reduced your majesty."

Having delivered herself of this speech she laughed loud and
heartily, as if vastly amused at the tenour of her words; and
then before the impatient monarch had time to reply, continued in
the same tone, with quickening breath and flashing eyes, "Be not
offended that I take the liberty of laughing at the gross manner
in which you are imposed upon; I cannot bear to see that such
particular affection should make you the jest of your own court,
and that you should be ridiculed with such impunity. I know that
the affected Stuart has sent you away under pretence of some
indisposition, or perhaps some scruple of conscience; and I come
to acquaint you that the Duke of Richmond will soon be with her,
if he is not there already. I do not desire you to believe what
I say, since it might be suggested either through resentment or
envy. Only follow me to her apartment, either that, no longer
trusting calumny and malice you may honour her with a just
preference, if I accuse her falsely; or, if my information be
true, you may no longer be the dupe of a pretended prude, who
makes you act so unbecoming and ridiculous a part."

The king, overwhelmed with astonishment, was irresolute in
action; but Lady Castlemaine, determined on not being deprived of
her anticipated triumph, took him by the hand and forcibly pulled
him towards Miss Stuart's apartments. The maid of honour's
servants, surprised at his majesty's return, were unable to warn
their mistress without his knowledge; whilst one of them, in pay
of the countess, found means of secretly intimating to her that
the Duke of Richmond was already in Miss Stuart's chamber. Lady
Castlemaine, having with an air of exultation led the king down
the gallery from his apartments to the threshold of Miss Stuart's
door, made him a low courtesy savouring more of irony than
homage, bade him good-night, and with a subtle smile promptly

The scene which followed is best painted by Hamilton's pen. "It
was near midnight; the king on his way met the chambermaids, who
respectfully opposed his entrance, and, in a very low voice,
whispered his majesty that Miss Stuart had been very ill since he
left her; but that being gone to bed, she was, God be thanked, in
a very fine sleep. 'That I must see,' said the king, pushing her
back, who had posted herself in his way. He found Miss Stuart in
bed, indeed, but far from being asleep; the Duke of Richmond was
seated at her pillow, and in all probability was less inclined to
sleep than herself. The perplexity of the one party, and the
rage of the other, were such as may easily be imagined upon such
a surprise. The king, who of all men was one of the most mild
and gentle, testified his resentment to the Duke of Richmond in
such terms as he had never before used. The duke was speechless
and almost petrified; he saw his master and his king justly
irritated. The first transports which rage inspires on such
occasions are dangerous. Miss Stuart's window was very
convenient for a sudden revenge, the Thames flowing close beneath
it; he cast his eyes upon it, and seeing those of the king more
incensed than fired with indignation than he thought his nature
capable of, he made a profound bow, and retired without replying
a single word to the vast torrent of threats and menaces that
were poured upon him.

"Miss Stuart having a little recovered from her first surprise,
instead of justifying herself, began to talk in the most
extravagant manner, and said everything that was most capable to
inflame the king's passion and resentment: that if she were not
allowed to receive visits from a man of the Duke of Richmond's
rank, who came with honourable intentions, she was a slave in a
free country; that she knew of no engagement that could prevent
her from disposing of her hand as she thought proper; but,
however, if this were not permitted her in his dominions, she did
not believe that there was any power on earth that could hinder
her from going over to France, and throwing herself into a
Convent, to enjoy there that tranquillity which was denied her in
his court. The king, sometimes furious with anger, sometimes
relenting at her tears, and sometimes terrified at her menaces,
was so greatly agitated that he knew not how to answer either the
nicety of a creature who wanted to act the part of Lucretia under
his own eye, or the assurance with which she had the effrontery
to reproach him. In this suspense love had almost entirely
vanquished all his resentments, and had nearly induced him to
throw himself upon his knees, and entreat pardon for the injury
he had done her, when she desired him to retire, and leave her in
repose, at least for the remainder of that night, without
offending those who had either accompanied him, or conducted him
to her apartments, by a longer visit. This impertinent request
provoked and irritated him to the highest degree: he went out
abruptly, vowing never to see her more, and passed the most
restless and uneasy night he had ever experienced since his

Next morning, his majesty sent orders to the Duke of Richmond to
quit the court, and never appear again in his presence. His
grace, however, stayed not to receive this message, having
betaken himself with all possible speed into the country. Miss
Stuart, who likewise feared the king's resentment, hastened to
the queen, and throwing herself at her majesty's feet, entreated
forgiveness for the pain and uneasiness she had caused her in the
past, and besought her care and protection in the future.

She then laid bare her intentions of marrying the Duke of
Richmond, who had loved her long, and was anxious to wed her
soon; but since the discovery of his addresses had caused his
banishment, and created disturbances prejudicial to her good
name, she begged the queen would obtain his majesty's consent to
her retiring from the vexations of a court to the tranquillity of
a convent. The queen raised her up, mingled her tears with those
of the troubled maid, and promised to use her endeavours towards
averting the king's displeasure.

On consideration, however, the fair Stuart did not wait to hear
his majesty's reproaches, or receive his entreaties; for the
duke, being impatient to gain his promised bride, quietly
returned to town, and secretly communicated with her. It was
therefore agreed between them she should steal away from the
palace, meet him at the "Bear at the Bridge Foot," situated on
the Southwark side of the river, where he would have a coach
awaiting her, in order they might ride away to his residence at
Cobham Hall, near Gravesend, and then be legally and happily
united in the holy bonds of matrimony. And all fell out as had
been arranged: the time being the month of March, 1667.

Now when the king discovered her flight, his anger knew no
bounds, though it sought relief in uttering many violent threats
against the duke, and in sending word to the duchess he would see
her no more. In answer to this message, she, with some show of
spirit, returned him the jewels he had given her, principal
amongst which were a necklace of pearls, valued at over a
thousand pounds, and a pair of diamond pendants of rare lustre.

Neither she nor her husband paid much heed to the royal menaces,
for before a year elapsed they both returned to town, and took up
their residence at Somerset House. Here, as Pepys records, she
kept a great court, "she being visited for her beauty's sake by
people, as the queen is at nights: and they say also she is
likely to go to court again and there put my Lady Castlemaine's
nose out of joint. God knows that would make a great turn." But
to such proposals as were made regarding her return to Whitehall,
her husband would not pay heed, and she therefore remained a
stranger to its drawing-rooms for some time longer. And when two
years later she appeared there, her beauty had lost much of its
famed lustre, for meantime she was overtaken by smallpox, a
scourge ever prevalent in the capital. During her illness the
king paid her several visits, and was sorely grieved that the
loveliness he so much prized should be marred by foul disease.
But on her recovery, the disfigurement she suffered scarce
lessened his admiration, and by no means abated his love; which
seemed to have gained fresh force from the fact of its being
interrupted awhile.

This soon became perceptible to all, and rumour whispered that
the young duchess would shortly return to Whitehall in a position
which she had declined before marriage. And amongst other
stories concerning the king's love for her, it was common talk
that one fair evening in May, when he had ordered his coach to be
ready that he might take an airing in the park, he, on a sudden
impulse, ran down the broad steps leading from his palace gardens
to the riverside. Here, entering a boat alone, he rowed himself
adown the placid river now crossed by early shadows, until he
came to Somerset House, where his lady-love dwelt; and finding
the garden-door locked, he, in his impatience to be with her,
clambered over the wall and sought her. Two months after the
occurrence of this incident, the young duchess was appointed a
lady of the bedchamber to the queen, and therefore had apartments
at Whitehall. There was little doubt now entertained she any
longer rejected his majesty's love; and in order to remove all
uncertainties on the point which might arise in her husband's
mind, the king one night, when he had taken over much wine,
boasted to the duke of her complaisancy. Lord Dartmouth, who
tells this story, says this happened "at Lord Townshend's, in
Norfolk, as my uncle told me, who was present." Soon after his
grace accepted an honourable exile as ambassador to Denmark, in
which country he died.

During the absence of the Duchess of Richmond, my Lady
Castlemaine, then in the uninterrupted possession of power, led
his majesty a sorry life. Her influence, indeed, seemed to
increase with time, until her victim became a laughing-stock to
the heartless, and an object of pity to the wise. Mr. Povy,
whose office as a member of the Tangier Commission brought him
into continual contact with the court, and whose love of gossip
made him observant of all that passed around him, in telling of
"the horrid effeminacy of the king," said that "upon any falling
out between my Lady Castlemaine's nurse and her woman, my lady
hath often said she would make the king make them friends, and
they would be friends and be quiet--which the king had been fain
to do." Nor did such condescension on his majesty's part incline
his mistress to treat him with more respect; for in the quarrels
which now became frequent betwixt them she was wont to term him a
fool, in reply to the kingly assertion that she was a jade.

The disturbances which troubled the court were principally caused
by her infidelities to him, and his subsequent jealousies of her.
Chief among those who shared her intrigues at this time was Harry
Jermyn, with whom she renewed her intimacy from time to time,
without the knowledge of his majesty. The risks she frequently
encountered in pursuit of her amours abounded in comedy.
Speaking of Harry Jermyn, Pepys tells us the king "had like to
have taken him abed with her, but that he was fain to creep under
the bed into the closet." It being now rumoured that Jermyn was
about to wed my Lady Falmouth, the countess's love for one whom
she might for ever lose received a fresh impulse, which made her
reckless of concealment. The knowledge of her passion,
therefore, coming to Charles's ears, a bitter feud sprang up
between them, during which violent threats and abusive language
were freely exchanged.

At this time my lady was far gone with child, a fact that soon
came bubbling up to the angry surface of their discourse; for the
king avowed he would not own it as his offspring. On hearing
this, her passion became violent beyond all decent bounds. "God
damn me, but you shall own it!" said she, her cheeks all crimson
and her eyes afire; and moreover she added, "she should have it
christened in the Chapel Royal, and owned as his, or otherwise
she would bring it to the gallery in Whitehall, and dash its
brains out before his face."

After she had hectored him almost out of his wits, she fled in a
state of wild excitement from the palace, and took up her abode
at the residence of Sir Daniel Harvey, the ranger of Richmond
Park. News of this scene spread rapidly through the court, and
was subsequently discussed in the coffee-houses and taverns all
over the town, where great freedom was made with the lady's name,
and great sport of the king's passion. And now it was said the
monarch had parted with his mistress for ever, concerning which
there was much rejoicement and some doubt. For notwithstanding
the king had passed his word to this effect, yet it was known
though his spirit was willing his flesh was weak. Indeed, three
days had scarcely passed when, mindful of her temper, he began to
think his words had been harsh, and, conscious of her power, he
concluded his vows had been rash. He therefore sought her once
more, but found she was not inclined to relent, until, as Pepys
was assured, this monarch of most feeble spirit, this lover of
most ardent temper, "sought her forgiveness upon his knees, and
promised to offend her no more."


The kingdom in peril.--The chancellor falls under his majesty's
displeasure.--The Duke of Buckingham's mimicry.--Lady
Castlemaine's malice.--Lord Clarendon's fall.--The Duke of Ormond
offends the royal favourite.--She covers him with abuse.--Plots
against the Duke of York.--Schemes for a royal divorce.--Moll
Davis and Nell Gwynn.--The king and the comedian.--Lady
Castlemaine abandons herself to great disorders.--Young Jack
Spencer.--The countess intrigues with an acrobat.--Talk of the
town.--The mistress created a duchess.

At this time the kingdom stood in uttermost danger, being brought
to that condition by his majesty's negligence towards its
concerns. The peril was, moreover, heightened from the fact of
the king being impatient to rid himself of those who had the
nation's credit at heart, and sought to uphold its interests. To
this end he was led in part by his own inclinations, and
furthermore by his friends' solicitations. Foremost amongst
those with whose services he was anxious to dispense, were the
chancellor, my Lord Clarendon, and the lord lieutenant of
Ireland, his grace the Duke of Ormond.

The king's displeasure against these men, who had served his
father loyally, himself faithfully, and their country honestly,
was instigated through hatred borne them by my Lady Castlemaine.
From the first both had bewailed the monarch's connection with
her, and the evil influence she exercised over him. Accordingly,
after the pattern of honest men, they had set their faces
against her.

Not only, as has already been stated, would the chancellor refuse
to let any document bearing her name pass the great seal, but he
had often prevailed with the king to alter resolutions she had
persuaded him to form. And moreover had his lordship sinned in
her eyes by forbidding his wife to visit or hold intercourse with
her. These were sufficient reasons to arouse the hatred and
procure the revenge of this malicious woman, who was now
virtually at the head of the kingdom. For awhile, however,
Charles, mindful of the services the chancellor had rendered him,
was unwilling to thrust him from his high place. But as time
sped, and the machinations of a clique of courtiers in league
with the countess were added to her influence, the chancellor's
power wavered. And finally, when he was suspected of stepping
between his majesty and his unlawful pleasures--concerning which
more shall be said anon--he fell.

At the head and front of the body which plotted against Lord
Clarendon, pandered to Lady Castlemaine, and, for its own
purposes--politically and socially--sought to control the king,
was his grace the Duke of Buckingham. This witty courtier and
his friends, when assembled round the pleasant supper table
spread in the countess's apartments, and honoured almost nightly
by the presence of the king, delighted to vent the force of their
humour upon the chancellor, and criticize his influence over the
monarch until Charles smarted from their words. In the height of
their mirth, if his majesty declared he would go a journey, walk
in a certain direction, or perform some trivial action next day,
those around him would lay a wager he would not fulfil his
intentions; and when asked why they had arrived at such
conclusions, they would reply, because the chancellor would not
permit him. On this another would remark with mock gravity, he
thought there were no grounds for such an imputation, though,
indeed, he could not deny it was universally believed abroad his
majesty was implicitly governed by Lord Clarendon. The king,
being keenly sensitive to remarks doubting his authority, and
most desirous of appearing his own master, would exclaim on such
occasions that the chancellor "had served him long, and
understood his business, in which he trusted him; but in any
other matter than his business, he had no more credit with him
than any other man." And presently the Duke of Buckingham--who
possessed talents of mimicry to a surpassing degree--would arise,
and, screwing his face into ridiculous contortions, and shaking
his wig in a manner that burlesqued wisdom to perfection, deliver
some ludicrous speech brimming with mirth and indecencies,
assuming the grave air and stately manner of the chancellor the
while. And finally, to make the caricature perfect, Tom
Killigrew, hanging a pair of bellows before him by way of purse,
and preceded by a friend carrying a fireshovel to represent a
mace, would walk round the room with the slow determined tread
peculiar to Lord Clarendon. At these performances the king, his
mistress, and his courtiers would laugh loud and long in chorus,
with which was mingled sounds of chinking glasses and flowing
wine. ["Came my lord chancellor (the Earl of Clarendon) and his
lady, his purse and mace borne before him, to visit me"--
Evelyn's "Diary."]

In this manner was the old man's power undermined; but a
circumstance which hastened his fall occurred in the early part
of 1667. In that year Lady Castlemaine had, for a valuable
consideration, disposed of a place at court, which ensured the
purchaser a goodly salary. However, before the bargain could
finally be ratified, it was necessary the appointment should pass
the great seal. This the chancellor would not permit, and
accompanied his refusal by remarking, "he thought this woman
would sell every thing shortly." His speech being repeated to
her, she, in great rage, sent him word she "had disposed of this
place, and had no doubt in a little time to dispose of his." And
so great was the malice she bore him, that she railed against him
openly and in all places; nor did she scruple to declare in the
queen's chamber, in the presence of much company, "that she hoped
to see his head upon a stake, to keep company with those of the
regicides on Westminster Hall."

And some political movements now arising, the history of which
lies not within the province of this work, the king seized upon
them as an excuse for parting with his chancellor. The monarch
complained that my Lord Clarendon "was so imperious that he would
endure no contradiction; that he had a faction in the House of
Commons that opposed everything that concerned his majesty's
service, if it were not recommended to them by him; and that he
had given him very ill advice concerning the parliament, which
offended him most."

Therefore there were rumours in the air that the chancellor's
fall was imminent; nor were the efforts of his son-in-law, the
Duke of York, able to protect him, for the friends of my Lady
Castlemaine openly told his majesty "it would not consist with
his majesty's honour to be hectored out of his determination to
dismiss the chancellor by his brother, who was wrought upon by
his wife's crying." It therefore happened on the 26th of August,
1667, as early as ten o'clock in the morning, Lord Clarendon
waited at Whitehall on the king, who presently, accompanied by
his brother, received him with characteristic graciousness.
Whereon the old man, acknowledging the monarch's courtesy, said
he "had no suit to make to him, nor the least thought to dispute
with him, or to divert him from the resolution he had taken; but
only to receive his determination from himself, and most humbly
to beseech him to let him know what fault he had committed, that
had drawn this severity upon him from his majesty."

In answer to this Charles said he must always acknowledge "he had
served him honestly and faithfully, and that he did believe never
king had a better servant; that he had taken this resolution for
his good and preservation, as well as for his own convenience and
security; that he was sorry the business had taken so much air,
and was so publicly spoken of, that he knew not how to change his
purpose." To these words of fair seeming the troubled chancellor
replied by doubting if the sudden dismissal of an old servant who
had served the crown full thirty years, without any suggestion of
crime, but rather with a declaration of innocence, would not call
his majesty's justice and good nature into question. He added
that men would not know how to serve him, when they should see it
was in the power of three or four persons who had never done him
any notable service to dispose him to ungracious acts. And
finally, he made bold to cast some reflections upon my Lady
Castlemaine, and give his majesty certain warnings regarding her

At this the king, not being well pleased, rose up, and the
interview, which had lasted two hours, terminated. Lord
Clarendon tells us so much concerning his memorable visit, to
which Pepys adds a vivid vignette picture of his departure. When
my lord passed from his majesty's presence into the privy garden,
my Lady Castlemaine, who up to that time had been in bed, "ran
out in her smock into her aviary looking into Whitehall--and
thither her woman brought her nightgown--and stood joying herself
at the old man's going away; and several of the gallants of
Whitehall, of which there were many staying to see the chancellor
return, did talk to her in her birdcage--among others Blaneford,
telling her she was the bird of paradise."

A few days after this occurrence the king sent Secretary Morrice
to the chancellor's house, with a warrant under a sign manual to
require and receive the great seal. This Lord Clarendon at once
delivered him with many expressions of duty which he bade the
messenger likewise convey his majesty. And no sooner had Morrice
handed the seals to the king, than Baptist May, keeper of the
privy purse, and friend of my Lady Castlemaine, sought the
monarch, and falling upon his knees, kissed his hand and
congratulated him on his riddance of the chancellor. "For now."
said he, availing himself of the liberty Charles permitted his
friends, "you will be king--what you have never been before."
Finally, the chancellor was, through influence of his enemies,
impeached in the House of Commons; and to such length did they
pursue him, that he was banished the kingdom by act of

His grace the Duke of Ormond was the next minister whom my Lady
Castlemaine, in the strength of her evil influence, sought to
undermine. By reason of an integrity rendering him too loyal to
the king to pander to his majesty's mistress, he incurred her
displeasure in many ways; but especially by refusing to gratify
her cupidity. It happened she had obtained from his majesty a
warrant granting her the Phoenix Park, Dublin, and the mansion
situated therein, which had always been placed at service of the
lords lieutenants, and was the only summer residence at their
disposal. The duke, therefore, boldly refusing to pass the
warrant, stopped the grant. [According to O'Connor's
"Bibliotheca Stowensis," Lady Castlemaine soon after received a
grant of a thousand pounds per annum in compensation for her loss
of Phoenix Park.] This so enraged the countess, that soon after,
when his grace returned to England, she, on meeting him in one of
the apartments in Whitehall, greeted him with a torrent of
abusive language and bitter reproaches, such as the rancour of
her heart could suggest, or the license of her tongue utter, and
concluded by hoping she might live to see him hanged. The duke
heard her with the uttermost calmness, and when she had exhausted
her abusive vocabulary quietly replied, "Madam, I am not in so
much haste to put an end to your days; for all I wish with regard
to you is, that I may live to see you grow old." And, bowing
low, the fine old soldier left her presence. It may be added,
though the duke was deprived of the lord lieutenancy, the
countess's pious wish regarding him was never fulfilled.

It now occurred to those who had relentlessly persecuted the
chancellor, that though they were safe as long as Charles
reigned, his death would certainly place them in peril. For they
sufficiently knew the Duke of York's character to be aware when
he ascended the throne he would certainly avenge the wrongs
suffered by his father-in-law. Accordingly these men, prominent
amongst whom were the Duke of Buckingham, Sir Thomas Clifford,
Lords Arlington, Lauderdale, and Ashley, and Baptist May,
resolved to devise means which would prevent the Duke of York
ever attaining the power of sovereignty. Therefore scarce a year
had gone by since Lord Clarendon's downfall, ere rumours were
spread abroad that his majesty was about to put away the queen,
This was to be effected, it was said, by the king's
acknowledgment of a previous marriage with Lucy Walters, mother
of the Duke of Monmouth, or by obtaining a divorce on ground of
her majesty's barrenness.

The Duke of Buckingham, who was prime mover in this plot, aware
of the king's pride in, and fondness for the Duke of Monmouth,
favoured the scheme of his majesty's admission of a marriage
previous to that which united him with Catherine of Braganza.
And according to Burnet, Buckingham undertook to procure
witnesses who would swear they had been present at the ceremony
which united him with the abandoned Lucy Walters. Moreover, the
Earl of Carlisle, who likewise favoured the contrivance, offered
to bring this subject before the House of Lords. However, the
king would not consent to trifle with the succession in this vile
manner, and the idea was promptly abandoned. But though the
project was unsuccessful, it was subsequently the cause of many
evils; for the chances of sovereignty, flashing before the eyes
of the Duke of Monmouth, dazzled him with hopes, in striving to
realize which, he, during the succeeding reign, steeped the
country in civil warfare, and lost his head.

The king's friends, ever active for evil, now sought other
methods by which he might rid himself of the woman who loved him
well, and therefore be enabled to marry again, when, it was
trusted, he would have heirs to the crown. It was suggested his
union might, through lack of some formality, be proved illegal;
but as this could not be effected without open violation of truth
and justice, it was likewise forsaken. The Duke of Buckingham
now besought his majesty that he would order a bill to divorce
himself from the queen to be brought into the House of Commons.
The king gave his consent to the suggestion, and the affair
proceeded so far that a date was fixed upon for the motion.
However, three days previous, Charles called Baptist May aside,
and told him the matter must be discontinued.

But even yet my Lord Buckingham did not despair of gaining his
wishes. And, being qualified by his character for the commission
of abominable deeds, and fitted by his experience for undertaking
adventurous schemes, he proposed to his majesty, as Burnet
states, that he would give him leave to abduct the queen, and
send her out of the kingdom to a plantation, where she should be
well and carefully looked to, but never heard of more. Then it
could be given out she had deserted him, upon which grounds he
might readily obtain a divorce. But the king, though he
permitted such a proposal to be made him, contemplated it with
horror, declaring "it was a wicked thing to make a poor lady
miserable only because she was his wife and had no children by
him, which was no fault of hers."

Ultimately these various schemes resolved themselves into a
proposition which Charles sanctioned. This was that the queen's
confessor should persuade her to leave the world, and embrace a
religious life. Whether this suggestion was ever made to her
majesty is unknown, for the Countess of Castlemaine, hearing of
these schemes, and foreseeing she would be the first sacrificed
to a new queen's jealousy, opposed them with such vigour that
they fell to the ground and were heard of no more. The fact was,
the king took no active part in these designs, not being anxious,
now the Duchess of Richmond had accepted his love, to unite
himself with another wife. Whilst her grace had been unmarried,
the idea had indeed occurred to him of seeking a divorce that he
might be free to lay his crown at the feet of the maid of honour.
And with such a view in mind he had consulted Dr. Sheldon,
Archbishop of Canterbury, as to whether the Church of England
"would allow of a divorce, when both parties were consenting, and
one of them lay under a natural incapacity of having children."
Before answering a question on which so much depended, the
archbishop requested time for consideration, which, with many
injunctions to secrecy, was allowed him. "But," says Lord
Dartmouth, who vouches for truth of this statement, "the Duke of
Richmond's clandestine marriage, before he had given an answer,
made the king suspect he had revealed the secret to Clarendon,
whose creature Sheldon was known to be; and this was the true
secret of Clarendon's disgrace." For the king, believing the
chancellor had aided the duke in his secret marriage, in order to
prevent his majesty's union with Miss Stuart, and the presumable
exclusion of the Duke and Duchess of York and their children from
the throne, never forgave him.

Though the subject of the royal divorce was no longer mentioned,
the disturbances springing from it were far from ended; for the
Duke of Buckingham, incensed at Lady Castlemaine's interference,
openly quarrelled with her, abused her roundly, and swore he
would remove the king from her power. To this end he therefore
employed his talents, and with such tact and assiduity that he
ultimately fulfilled his menaces. The first step he took towards
accomplishing his desires, was to introduce two players to his
majesty, named respectively Moll Davis and Nell Gwynn.

The former, a member of the Duke of York's troupe of performers,
could boast of goodly lineage, though not of legitimate birth,
her father being Thomas Howard, first Earl of Berkshire. She
had, early in the year 1667, made her first appearance at the
playhouse, and had by her comely face and shapely figure
challenged the admiration of the town. Her winsome ways,
pleasant voice, and graceful dancing soon made her a favourite
with the courtiers, who voted her an excellent wench; though some
of her own sex, judging harshly of her, as is their wont towards
each other, declared her "the most impertinent slut in the

Now the Duke of Buckingham knowing her well, it seemed to him no
woman was more suited to fulfil his purpose of thwarting the
countess; for if he succeeded in awaking the king's passion for
the comedian, such a proceeding would not only arouse my lady's
jealousy, but likewise humble her pride. Therefore, when this
court Mephistopheles accompanied his majesty to the playhouse, he
was careful to dwell on Moll Davis's various charms, the
excellency of her figure, the beauty of her face, the piquancy of
her manner. So impressed was the monarch by Buckingham's
descriptions, that he soon became susceptible to her
fascinations. The amour once begun was speedily pursued; and she
was soon enabled to boast, in presence of the players, that the
king--whose generosity was great to fallen women--had given her a
ring valued at seven hundred pounds, and was about to take, and
furnish most richly, a house in Suffolk Street for her benefit
and abode. Pepys heard this news in the first month of the year
1668; and soon afterwards a further rumour reached him that she
was veritably the king's mistress, "even to the scorn of the

This intrigue affected Lady Castlemaine in a manner which the
Duke of Buckingham had not expected. Whilst sitting beside
Charles in the playhouse, she noticed his attention was riveted
upon her rival, when she became melancholy and out of humour, in
which condition she remained some days. But presently rallying
her spirits, she soon found means to divert her mind and avenge
her wrongs, of which more shall be recorded hereafter.
Meanwhile, the poor queen, whose feelings neither the king nor
his courtiers took into consideration, bore this fresh insult
with such patience as she could summon to her aid, on one
occasion only protesting against her husband's connection with
the player. This happened when the Duke of York's troupe
performed in Whitehall the tragedy of "Horace," "written by the
virtuous Mrs. Phillips." The courtiers assembled on this
occasion presented a brilliant and goodly sight. Evelyn tells us
"the excessive gallantry of the ladies was infinite, those jewels
especially on Lady Castlemaine esteemed at forty thousand pounds
and more, far outshining ye queene." Between each act of the
tradgedy a masque and antique dance was performed. When Moll
Davis appeared, her majesty, turning pale from sickness of heart,
and trembling from indignation at the glaring insult thrust upon
her, arose and left the apartment boisterous with revelry, where
she had sat a solitary sad figure in its midst. As a result of
her intimacy with the king, Moll Davis bore him a daughter, who
subsequently became Lady Derwentwater. But the Duke of
Buckingham's revenge upon my Lady Castlemaine was yet but half
complete; and therefore whilst the monarch carried on his
intrigue with Moll Davis, his grace, enlarging upon the wit and
excellency of Nell Gwynn, besought his majesty to send for her.
This request the king complied with readily enough, and she was
accordingly soon added to the list of his mistresses. Nell
Gwynn, who was at this period in her eighteenth year, had joined
the company of players at the king's house, about the same time
as Moll Davis had united her fortunes with the Duke of York's
comedians. Her time upon the stage was, however, but of brief
duration; for my Lord Buckhurst, afterwards Earl of Dorset, a
witty and licentious man, falling in love with her, induced her
to become his mistress, quit the theatre, and forsake the society
of her lover, Charles Hart, a famous actor and great-nephew of
William Shakespeare. And she complying with his desires in these
matters, he made her an allowance of one hundred pounds a year,
on which she returned her parts to the manager, and declared she
would act no more.

Accordingly in the month of July, 1667, she was living at Epsom
with my Lord Buckhurst and his witty friend Sir Charles Sedley,
and a right merry house they kept for a time. But alas, ere the
summer had died there came a day when charming Nell and his
fickle lordship were friends no more, and parting from him, she
was obliged to revert to the playhouse again.

Now Nell Gwynn being not only a pretty woman, but moreover an
excellent actress, her return was welcomed by the town. Her
achievements in light comedy were especially excellent, and
declared entertaining to a rare degree. Pepys, who witnessed her
acting "a comical part," in the "Maiden Queen," a play by Dryden,
says he could "never hope to see the like done again by man or
woman. So great performance of a comical part," he continues,
"was never, I believe, in the world before as Nell do this, both
as a mad girle, then most and best of all when she comes in like
a young gallant; and hath the motions and carriage of a spark the
most that ever I saw any man have. It makes me, I confess,
admire her." In the part of Valeria, in "Tyrannic Love," she was
also pronounced inimitable; especially in her delivery of the
epilogue. The vein of comedy with which she delivered the
opening lines, addressed to those about to bear her dead body
from the stage, was merry beyond belief. "Hold!" she cried out
to one of them, as she suddenly started to life--

"Hold! are you mad? you damned confounded dog!
I am to rise and speak the epilogue."

Before the year 1667 ended, she had several times visited his
majesty at Whitehall. The king was now no less assured of her
charms as a woman, than he had previously been convinced of her
excellence as an actress. In due time, her intimacy with the
monarch resulted in the birth of two sons; the elder of which was
created Duke of St. Albans, from whom is descended the family now
bearing that title: the second died young and unmarried.

Through influence of these women, my Lady Castlemaine's power
over the king rapidly diminished, and at last ceased to exist;
seeing which, as Burnet says, "She abandoned herself to great
disorders; one of which by the artifice of the Duke of Buckingham
was discovered by the king in person, the party concerned leaping
out of the window." The gallant to whom the worthy bishop refers
was John Churchill, afterwards the great Duke of Marlborough, at
this time a handsome stripling of eighteen summers. In his
office as page to the Duke of York, he frequently came under
notice of her ladyship, who, pleased with the charms of his
boyish face and graceful figure, intimated his love would not
prove unacceptable to her. Accordingly he promptly made love to
the countess, who, in the first fervour of her affection,
presented him with five thousand pounds. With this sum he
purchased a life annuity of five hundred pounds, which, as Lord
Chesterfield writes, "became the foundation of his subsequent
fortune." Nor did her generosity end here: at a cost of six
thousand crowns she obtained for him the post of groom of the
bedchamber to the Duke of York, and was instrumental in
subsequently forwarding his advancements in the army.

My Lady Castlemaine was by no means inclined to spend her days in
misery because the royal favour was no longer vouchsafed her; and
therefore, by way of satisfying her desires for revenge,
conducted intrigues not only with John Churchill and Harry
Jermyn, but likewise with one Jacob Hall, a noted acrobat. This
man was not only gifted with strength and agility, but likewise
with grace and beauty: so that, as Granger tells us, "The ladies
regarded him as a due composition of Hercules and Adonis." His
dancing on the tight rope at Bartholomew Fair was "a thing worth
seeing and mightily followed;" whilst his deeds of daring at
Southwark Fair were no less subjects of admiration and wonder.
The countess was so charmed by the performance of this athlete in
public, that she became desirous of conversation with him in
private; and he was accordingly introduced to her by Beck
Marshall, the player. The countess found his society so
entertaining that she frequently visited him, a compliment he
courteously returned. Moreover, she allowed him a yearly salary,
and openly showed her admiration for him by having their
portraits painted in one picture: in which she is represented
playing a fiddle, whilst he leans over her, touching the strings
of a guitar.

Her amours in general, and her intimacy with the rope-dancer in
particular, becoming common talk of the town, his majesty became
incensed; and it grieved him the more that one who dwelt in his
palace, and was yet under his protection, should divide her
favours between a king and a mountebank. Accordingly bitter
feuds arose between her and the monarch, when words of hatred,
scorn, and defiance were freely exchanged. His majesty
upbraiding her with a love for the rope-dancer, she replied with
much spirit, "it very ill became him to throw out such reproaches
against her: that he had never ceased quarrelling unjustly with
her, ever since he had betrayed his own mean low inclinations:
that to gratify such a depraved taste as his, he wanted the
pitiful strolling actresses whom he had lately introduced into
their society." Then came fresh threats from the lips of the
fury, followed by passionate storms of tears.

The king, who loved ease greatly, and valued peace exceedingly,
became desirous of avoiding such harrowing scenes. Accordingly,
he resolved to enter into a treaty with his late mistress, by
which he would consent to grant her such concessions as she
desired, providing she promised to discontinue her intrigues with
objectionable persons, and leave him to pursue his ways without
reproach. By mutual consent, his majesty and the countess
selected the Chevalier de Grammont to conduct this delicate
business; he being one in whose tact and judgment they had
implicit confidence. After various consultations and due
consideration, it was agreed the countess should abandon her
amours with Henry Jermyn and Jacob Hall, rail no more against
Moll Davis or Nell Gwynn, or any other of his majesty's
favourites, in consideration for which Charles would create her a
duchess, and give her an additional pension in order to support
her fresh honours with becoming dignity.

And as the king found her residence in Whitehall no longer
necessary to his happiness, Berkshire House was purchased for her
as a suitable dwelling This great mansion, situated at the south-
west corner of St. James's Street, facing St. James's Palace, was
surrounded by pleasant gardens devised in the Dutch style, and
was in every way a habitation suited for a prince. This handsome
gift was followed by a grant of the revenues of the Post Office,
amounting to four thousand seven hundred pounds a year, which was
at first paid her in weekly instalments. On the 3rd of August,
1670, Barbara, Countess of Castlemaine, was created Baroness
Nonsuch, of Nonsuch Park, Surrey; Countess of Southampton; and
Duchess of Cleveland in the peerage of England. The reasons for
crowding these honours thick upon her were, as the patent stated,
"in consideration of her noble descent, her father's death in the
service of the crown, and by reason of her personal virtues."

Nor did his majesty's extravagant favours to her end here. She
was now, as Mr. Povy told his friend Pepys, "in a higher command
over the king than ever--not as a mistress, for she scorns him,
but as a tyrant, to command him." In consequence of this power,
she was, two months after her creation as duchess, presented by
the monarch with the favourite hunting seat of Henry VIII., the
magnificent palace and great park of Nonsuch, in the parishes of
Cheam and Malden, in the county of Surrey. And yet a year later,
she received fresh proofs of his royal munificence by the gift of
"the manor, hundred, and advowson of Woking, county Surrey; the
manor and advowson of Chobham, the hundred of Blackheath and
Wootton, the manor of Bagshot (except the park, site of the manor
and manor-house, and the Bailiwick, and the office of the
Bailiwick, called Surrey Bailiwick, otherwise Bagshot Bailiwick),
and the advowson of Bisley, all in the same county."

Her wealth, the more notable at a time when the king was in debt,
and the nation impoverished from expenditure necessary to
warfare, was enormous. Andrew Marvell, writing in August, 1671,
states: "Lord St. John, Sir R. Howard, Sir John Bennet, and Sir
W. Bicknell, the brewer, have farmed the customs. They have
signed and sealed ten thousand pounds a year more to the Duchess
of Cleveland; who has likewise near ten thousand pounds a year
out of the new farm of the country excise of Beer and Ale; five
thousand pounds a year out of the Post Office; and they say, the
reversion of all the King's Leases, the reversion of places all
in the Custom House, the green wax, and indeed what not? All
promotions spiritual and temporal pass under her cognizance."


Louise de Querouaille.--The Triple Alliance.--Louise is created
Duchess of Portsmouth.--Her grace and the impudent comedian.--
Madam Ellen moves in society.--The young Duke of St. Albans.--
Strange story of the Duchess of Mazarine.--Entertaining the wits
at Chelsea.--Luxurious suppers.--Profligacy and wit.

The Duchess of Cleveland having shared the fate common to court
favourites, her place in the royal affections was speedily filled
by a mistress whose influence was even more baneful to the king,
and more pernicious to the nation. This woman was Louise de
Querouaille, the descendant of a noble family in Lower Brittany.
At an early age she had been appointed maid of honour to
Henrietta, youngest sister of Charles II., soon after the
marriage of that princess, in 1661, with the Duke of Orleans,
brother to Louis XIV. Fate decreed that Mademoiselle de
Querouaille should be brought into England by means of a
political movement; love ordained she should reign mistress of
the king's affections.

It happened in January, 1668, that a Triple Alliance had been
signed at the Hague, which engaged England, Sweden, and the
United Provinces to join in defending Spain against the power of
France. A secret treaty in this agreement furthermore bound the
allies to check the ambition of Louis XIV., and, if possible,
reduce his encroaching sway. That Charles II. should enter into
such an alliance was galling to the French monarch, who resolved
to detach his kinsman from the compact, and bind him to the
interests of France. To effect this desired purpose, which he
knew would prove objectionable to the British nation, Louis
employed Henrietta, Duchess of Orleans, to visit England on
pretext of pleasure and affection, and secretly persuade and
bribe her brother to the measures required.

The young duchess, though an English princess, had at heart the
interests of the country in which she had been reared, and which
on her marriage she had adopted as her own. She therefore gladly
undertook this mission, confident of her success from the fact
that of all his family she had ever been the most tenderly
beloved by Charles. Therefore she set out from France, and in
the month of May, 1670, arrived at Dover, to which port the king,
Queen, and court hastened, that they might greet and entertain
her. For full ten days in this merry month, high revelry was
held at Dover, during which time Henrietta skilfully and secretly
effected the object of her visit. And her delight was now the
greater, inasmuch as one item which this agreement entrusted her
to make, engaged that Charles would, as soon as he could with
safety, follow the example of his brother the Duke of York, and
become a Catholic. In carrying out this purpose Louis promised
him substantial aid and sure protection. Likewise, it may be
mentioned, did the French king engrage to grant him a subsidy
equal to a million a year, if Charles joined him in an attack on

The prospect of his sister's return filled the king with sorrow,
which increased as the term of her visit drew to an end. "He
wept when he parted with her," wrote Monsieur Colbert, the French
ambassador, who significantly adds, "whatever favour she asked of
him was granted."

Now Louis knowing the weakness of the English monarch's
character, and aware of his susceptibility to female loveliness,
had despatched Mademoiselle de Querouaille in the train of
Henrietta. Satisfied that Charles could not resist her charms,


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