Page images

October 1678, that Sir Edmondbury Godfrey was said to have met with his dreadful fate at the hands of two of the hangers-on of the Queen's Chapel. Immediately after the death of Charles the Second, Catherine retired from Whitehall to Somerset House, where she received the addresses of condolence on the occasion of her recent bereavement, in an apartment lighted with tapers and covered with black even to the foot-stool. From this period, till her return to Portugal in 1692, she resided almost entirely either at Somerset House or at her villa at Hammersmith. She was fond of music, and in London had regular concerts, though in other respects she lived in great privacy.

In the reign of Charles the Second, we find the remains of George Monk, the great Duke of Albemarle, lying in state for several weeks in Somerset House, previous to their interment in Henry the Seventh’s Chapel at Westminster.

From the days of Catherine of Braganza, Somerset House continued to be the nominal jointure-house of successive Queens, and occasionally the residence of foreign ambassadors, till the latter end of the last century. As in the case of the palaces of Hampton Court and Kensington in our own time, a portion of the apartments of Somerset House was lent to persons of birth and influence; and accordingly we find the old apartments of the Protector Somerset occasionally enlivened by some gay ball or masquerade. We may particularly mention an entertainment given here in 1749, at which George the Second and Augusta Princess of Wales were present; on which occasion a considerable sensation was created by the beautiful but abandoned Maid of Honour, Elizabeth Chudleigh, afterwards Duchess of Kingston, appearing in an almost primitive state as Iphigenia. Mrs. Montagu writes to her sister on the 8th of May 1749,*_“I was some days preparing for the subscription masquerade, where I was to appear in the character of the Queen-Mother;ť my dress white satin, with fine new point for tuckers, kerchief and ruffles, pearl necklace and ear-rings, and pearls and diamonds on the head, and my hair curled after the Vandyke picture. Mrs. Trevor and the Lady Stanhopes adjusted my dress, so that I was one day in my

life well dressed. Miss Charlotte Fane was Rubens' wife, and looked extremely well; we went together. Miss Chudleigh's dress, or rather undress, was remarkable: she was Iphigenia for the sacrifice, but so naked the high priest might easily inspect the entrails of the victim. The Maids of Honour (not of maids the strictest) were so offended they would not speak to her. Pretty Mrs. Pitt looked as if she came from heaven, but was only on her road thither in the habit of a chanoinesse. Many ladies looked handsome, and many rich : there was as great a quantity of diamonds as the town could produce. Mrs. Chandler was a starry

* “ Letters of Mrs. Elizabeth Montagu.” The editor of the Letters has, by mistake, dated this letter in 1751.

+ Henrietta Maria.

he says,

night. The Duchess of Portland had no jewels. Lord Sandwich made a fine hussar. I stayed till five o'clock in the morning at the masquerade, and am not tired. I have never been quite well since; but I had better luck than Miss Conway, who was killed by a draught of lemonade she drank there."*

We have another account of this splendid entertainment in a letter from Horace Walpole to Sir Horace Mann, dated 3rd May 1749 :—“The King,"

“ was well disguised in an old-fashioned English habit; and much pleased with somebody who desired him to hold their cup, as they were drinking tea. The Duke [of Cumberland] had a dress of the same kind, but was so immensely corpulent that he looked like Cacofogo, the drunken captain, in Rule a Wife and Have a Wife.' The Duchess of Richmond was a Lady Mayoress, in the time of James the First; and Lord Delawarr, Queen Elizabeth's Porter, from a picture in the guardchamber at Kensington: they were admirable masks. Lady Rochfort, Miss Evelyn, Miss Bishop, Lady Stafford, and Mrs. Pitt were in vast beauty; particularly the last, who had a red veil, which made her look gloriously handsome. I forgot Lady Kildare. Mr. Conway was the Duke in 'Don Quixote,' and the finest figure I ever saw. Miss Chudleigh was

* Her death was celebrated in the following doggerel lines :

Poor Jenny Conway,

She drank lemonade,

At a masquerade,
So now she's dead and gone away.

Iphigenia, but so naked you would have taken her for Andromeda; and Lady Betty Smithson had such a pyramid of baubles upon her head, that she was exactly the Princess of Babylon in Grammont.” The Princess of Wales is said to have been so confounded at the indelicate appearance of her Maid of Honour, as to have publicly thrown a veil over her person.

It may not impossibly have been on this occasion that Miss Chudleigh, alluding to the suspicious connexion which existed between the Princess and Lord Bute, retorted on her royal mistress, “ Votre Altesse Royale sait que chacune a son But."

Somerset Stairs are connected with a trifling incident which occurred to Edmund Waller, the poet. Aubrey says of him ;—“He was but a tender weak body, but was always very temperate.

made him damnable drunk at Somerset House, where, at the water-stairs he fell down, and had a cruel fall: 'twas pity to use such a sweet swan so inhumanly.' Saville paid him the high compliment of saying, “ that nobody should keep him company without drinking, but Ned Waller.” The old stairs at Somerset House were the work of Inigo Jones.

The last house-keeper of old Somerset House was Mrs. Charlotte Lennox, once a novelist of no inconsiderable repute, and the friend of Dr. Johnson. When the old palace was pulled down, she lost her apartments, and, in the latter part of her life, was reduced to great distress.*

* See Croker's “ Boswell,” vol. i. p. 208 and note.

The circumstances wbich led to the destruction of old Somerset House, may be related in a few words. There being a necessity of providing some additional offices for the service of the State, on the 10th of April 1775 it was recommended to Parliament, by a message from the Crown, that Buckingham House should be made over as a jointure-house to Queen Charlotte, and that Somerset House, which had previously been settled upon her, should be appropriated to such purposes as should be found “ most useful to the public.” The act was soon passed, and almost immediately the demolition of the old buildings commenced.

That portion of the palace, which had been erected by Inigo Jones in the reign of Charles the First, had for some time been used for the meetings of the Royal Academy, and for other purposes. The greater part, however, of the original palace of the Protector had remained undesecrated by modern improvement;-many of the ornaments, if not the furniture, of the reign of Edward the Sixth, still existed ;-and, accordingly, when these desolate apartments were visited by Sir William Chambers, and other persons appointed to take a survey of them, they presented a sight which, either to an antiquary or a philosopher, must have been equally curious and interesting.

At the extremity of the apartments which had been occupied by Henrietta Maria, and subsequently by Catherine of Braganza, two large folding-doors opened into the ancient portion of the

« PreviousContinue »