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A History of the Four Georges and of William IV, V

She went to playhouse after playhouse


the King expressed his annoyance at some of the blunders, Lord Effingham, the Earl Marshal, offered, for amazing apology, the assurance that the next coronation would be conducted with perfect order, an unfortunate speech, which had, however, the effect of affording the King infinite entertainment. The one tragic touch in the whole day's work may be legend, but it is legend that might be and that should be truth. When Dymoke, the King's Champion, rode, in accordance with the antique usage, along Westminster Hall, and flung his glove down in challenge to any one who dared contest his master's right to the throne of England, it is said that some one darted out from the crowd, picked up the glove, slipped back into the press, and disappeared, without being stopped or discovered. According to one version of the incident, it was a woman who did the deed; according to another it was Charles Edward himself, the Young Pretender--now no longer so very young--who made this last protest on behalf of his lost fortunes and his fallen House. It is possible, it is even probable, that Charles Edward was in London then and thereafter, and it seems certain that if he was in London King George knew of it and ignored it in a chivalrous and kingly way. The Young Pretender could do no harm now. Stuart hopes had burned high for a moment, fifteen years earlier, when a handsome young {14} Prince carried his invading flag halfway through England, and a King who was neither handsome nor young was ready to take ship from Tower Stairs if worse came of it. But those hopes were quenched now, down in the dust, extinguished forever. No harm could come to the House of Hanover, no harm could come to the King of England, if at Lady Primrose's house in St. James's Square a party should be interrupted by the entrance of an unexpected guest, of a man prematurely aged by dissipation and disappointment, a melancholy ruin of what had once been fair and noble, and in whom his amazed and reverent hostess recognized the last of the fated Stuarts. There were spies among those who still professed adherence to Charles Edward and allegiance to his line, spies bearing names honorable in Scottish history, who were always ready to keep George and George's ministers posted in the movements of the unhappy Prince they betrayed. George could afford to be magnanimous, and George was magnanimous. If it pleased the poor Pretender to visit, like a premature ghost, the city and the scenes associated with his House and its splendor and its awful tragedies, he did so untroubled and unharmed. It was but a cast of the dice in Fortune's fingers, and Charles Edward would have been in Westminster Hall and had a champion to assert his right. But the cast of the dice went the other way, and George the Third was King, and his little German Princess was Queen of England.

[Sidenote--1761--The London gayeties of the time]

It is probable that those early days in London were the happiest in the little Queen's long life. She had come from exceeding quiet to a great and famous city; she was the centre of splendor; she was surrounded by splendid figures; she was the first lady of a great land; she was the queen of a great king; she was the fortunate wife of a loyal, honorable, and pure-minded man. She was young, she was frank, she was fond of all innocent pleasures, keenly alive to all the entertainment that Court and capital could offer her. She crammed more gayeties into the first few days of her marriage than she had dreamed of in all her previous life. The girl, who had never seen {15} the sea until she took ship for England, had never seen a play acted until she came to London. Mecklenburg-Strelitz had its own strong ideas about the folly and frivolity of the stage, and no Puritan maiden in the sternest days of Cromwellian ascendency, no Calvinist daughter of the most rigorous Scottish household, could have been educated in a more austere ignorance of the arts that are supposed to embellish and that are intended to amuse existence. She went to playhouse after playhouse, alarmed at the crowds that thronged the streets to see her, but fascinated by the delights that awaited her within the walls. She attended the opera. She saw "The Beggar's Opera," which may have charmed her for its story without perplexing her by its satire. She saw "The Rehearsal," and did not dream that twenty years later the humors of Bayes, which she probably did not understand, would be eclipsed forever by the fantasies of Mr. Puff. She carried the King to Ranelagh, to that amazing, enchanting assembly where all the world made masquerade, and mandarins, harlequins, shepherdesses, and much-translated pagan divinities jostled each other through Armida's gardens, where the pink of fashion and the plain citizen, the patrician lady and the plebeian waiting-maid made merry together in a motley rout of Comus, and marvelled at the brilliancy of the illuminations and the many-colored glories of the fireworks.


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