« PreviousContinue »
ART. VI. – Die Gräfin von Albany. Von ALFRED VON
REUMONT. Two Volumes. Berlin: 1860. Some forty years since, the sister of an Irish peeress astonished
a party of English at Florence, by announcing that she had been to see the house in which Ariosto lived with the Countess of Albany, widow of Charles the First. She meant the house in which Alfieri lived with the Countess after the death of her husband, Charles Edward, popularly known as the Pretender.* It is to be feared that the name of the Countess of Albany, although it may not again mislead to this extent, will recall few clear or definite impressions to the mass of the reading public. Yet that name is imperishably blended with the royalty of race and the prouder royalty of genius, - with the expiring glories of an illustrious house, and with the rising glories of an author, who, thanks to Ristori, has at length obtained, in European estimation, the place which the most discriminating of his countrymen were prepared from the first to claim for him.
In allusion to the monument in Santa Croce and the many spots in Florence associated with their history, M. de Reumont exclaims: Thus in the capital of Tuscany are united the
names and memories of a descendant of the most unfortunate kingly line of modern times, of a German princess, and an Italian poet.' It will not be this accomplished writer's fault if their union ever again fails to attract attention. The object of his book is to make the German princess not only the connecting link between the exiled prince and the poet, but the central figure of a group, or rather of several successive groups, of learned and accomplished persons more or less known to fame. These in turn serve as an apology for introducing sketches of Italian society at different epochs, interspersed with remarks on manners and criticisms on art. M. de Reumont was many years Prussian Minister at Florence; he is the author of a valuable work, in six volumes, entitled Contributions to Italian History;' he is full to overflowing of anti
* This story is rather diffusely told in • The Idler in Italy' (vol. ii. p. 146.), by the Countess of Blessington, who, in the very act of triumphing over her countrywoman, falls into the not less palpable mistake of calling the Countess the widow of James Stuart, the Chevalier St. George. VOL. CXIV. NO. CCXXXI.
quarian, artistic, and architectural lore; and he pours out his stores, whenever he can find or simulate an opportunity, without mercy or restraint. This is the most exhaustive and also the most conscientiously written book we ever remember to have read. Indeed, its excessive conscientiousness is its fault. There is no denying that, if we wish to convey a complete image and perfectly just estimate of a man and woman, everything that contributes directly or indirectly to the formation of their characters falls strictly within the province of the biographer. But a line of demarcation must be drawn somewhere. In the speech assigned to David Hartley in Anticipation,' he is made to argue that the right of Great Britain to tax a colony depends upon the constitution of colonies in general ; that colonies cannot be considered without reference to mother countries, nor mother countries without reference to the partition and population of the world. By an analogous train of reasoning, M. de Reumont insists on tracing the influence perceptibly or imperceptibly exercised on Charles Edward by his paternal and maternal connections in the ascending line to the third or fourth degree, as well as by his father, mother, brother, and mistress, singly or conjointly; and the result is that we are not introduced to the lady whose name exclusively occupies the title-page, till we arrive at the third chapter and 133rd page of the book.
Foreign readers, however, who are less conversant with the errors and misfortunes of the Stuarts, may not be sorry to learn more of the last of them; and it must be admitted that the illustrative traits and incidents brought together by the author are extremely well chosen and well adapted to his purpose. But we could not find room for many of them without excluding newer matter; and we pass at once to the marriage of the Chevalier St. George in 1718 with Marie Clementine Sobieski, the granddaughter of the heroic King of Poland. Amongst the valuables which formed part of her dowry, were the rubies of the Polish crown, now in the treasury of St. Peter's ; the golden shield, presented by the Emperor Leopold
* The most interesting and curious of the anecdotes relating to the Stuarts in Italy are taken from “The Decline of the Last Stuarts. • Extracts from the Despatches of British Envoys to the Secretary of State. Printed for the Roxburghe Club by Lord Mahon. London : 1843. M. de Reumont's work is appropriately dedicated to 'Anna Cæcilia, Countess of Bernstorff, the German woman who in the society of England represents her native country with grace, tact, and kindliness; who, in a similar position in Italy, has left a willingly cherished remembrance.'
| to the deliverer of Vienna; and the cover, of gold brocade
adorned with verses of the Koran in turquoise, in which the standard of the Prophet was kept during the siege.
The theory that men of mark are commonly more indebted to their mothers than their fathers, has been illustrated by long lists of instances; and it is a fair subject of speculation whether the transient dashes of heroism exhibited by Charles are to be set down to the credit of the Sobieski blood, or were any way owing to maternal training or encouragement. Pollnitz, indeed, says that Marie Clementine was a princess who deserved to be a queen. Without possessing the lustre of a great beauty, she unites endless attractions in her person. She is obliging,
compassionate, beneficent; her piety is deep seated, and she • leads in truth the life of a saint. This was more than could be said for her husband, whose undisguised attentions to the Duchess of Inverness at length produced an open rupture, which was made up with difficulty through the intervention of Alberoni, after causing great scandal.
Charles Edward was born at Rome on the 31st December, 1720. Seven cardinals were present at his birth, and the : Pope, Clement XI., caused a Te Deum to be sung. As he
grew up, he gave decided signs of future eminence. From early childhood he was imbued with the loftiest and most aspiring notions, and his training was adapted to his assumed prospects. Very little is popularly known of him either before or after his exploits and adventures in 1745; and M. de Reumont has been at considerable pains to bring together the leading indications of his character at each of the comparatively unknown or obscure periods. His personal advantages in youth were undeniable. He was fair, like his mother, and unlike his father, who was dark. He was fond of active exercise, and devoted to field sports. He was a good rider and a good shot. But his body was not improved and strengthened at the expense of his mind, for he spoke Latin, Italian, French, and English, and was well versed in ancient and modern history. He was the observed of all observers at more than one splendid entertainment given at Rome in honour of his family, and when he entered a ball-room, the same fluttering anxiety to secure a royal partner was visible amongst the Roman beauties as was betrayed by the American maidens during the Prince of Wales' progress through the (then) United States. But he was in no danger of degenerating into a mere carpet-knight. When he was only fourteen years old he served in the short and dashing campaign which ended (1735) in placing a Spanish Bourbon on the throne of Naples. He was on board one of the Spanish vessels
employed against Gaeta, when his hat blew off into the sea. As his attendants were hurrying to recover it, he stopped them, exclaiming : •Let it go, let it go; give yourselves no trouble. • One day or another I will follow the same course as this hat.' The Lord Marshal Keith checked one meditated display of his military ardour which would not have added to his popularity in Great Britain. When the expedition to Scotland, projected in concert with France in 1744, was postponed, he was with difficulty prevented from placing himself under the command of Marshal Saxe, who was to have made an attempt on the English coast about the same time.
Romance has combined with history to familiarise all classes of readers in all civilised countries with the leading events of 1745. After fourteen months of chivalrous adventure he returned to France, where his reception by the people as well as by the Court was enthusiastic. His undertaking, although
abortive,' says M. de Reumont, had surrounded his head as with a halo. But when he began to talk of assistance • for another, the tone changed apace. During a negotiation with this view, Cardinal Tencin threw out a hint that the
effective help of France might be bought by the surrender of • Ireland. “ No, Monsieur le Cardinal. All or nothing; no "“halving (Non, Monsieur le Cardinal. Tout ou rien ; point de
partage).” This recalls one of the few redeeming traits recorded of his grandfather, James II., who, when he witnessed from the shore at La Hogue the reckless intrepidity of the seamen under Rooke, cried out:' My brave English! – My brave • English!' in entire forgetfulness that they were completing the ruin of his cause.
Scheme after scheme was formed and thrown aside; and the sickening pang of hope deferred had been endured in all its bitterness by the exile, when a crushing blow fell upon him. It was made a condition in the Treaty of Peace signed at Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748, that Charles Edward should be expelled from the French territory. An intimation was accordingly conveyed to him through the Duc de Gèvres and M. de Maurepas, that a fitting retreat had been prepared for him at Freiburg. He positively refused to quit France. . Above all,' he said, I grieve for Louis; I can only lose
life, but Louis loses honour' Like Charles XII. of Sweden at Bender, he armed his servants, barricaded his house, and determined to repel force by force. The Dauphin and many of the principal nobility sympathised with him, and used all their influence to avoid coming to extremities; but the Government had gone too far to recede, and the result is thus
concisely and indignantly summed up by Chateaubriand : • The
Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle drove Charles Edward from France. Seized in the Opera House on the 11th December, 1748, shamefully bound, he was brought to Vincennes. He was carried to the frontiers ; Louis Quatorze was no longer on the throne. Charles Edward learnt the hard lesson which the great are wont to learn in adversity. He was abandoned. • He had his good right on his side; but legitimacy is no pro'tection. It was decreed that the time would come when the descendants of Louis XV. would be wandering about Europe ' like the Pretender, — would read on the corners of streets in "Germany: All beggars, vagabonds, and emigrants are for"bidden to tarry longer than twenty-four hours here.' Cotemporary opinion was little less severe. The Duc de Biron, who commanded the French guards employed in the seizure, was very generally regarded as a dishonoured man, and the popular sentiment was well expressed by Desforges in some verses ending
Peuple jadis si fier, aujourd'hui si servile,
Des princes malheureux vous n'êtes plus d'asile.' Severe blows were yet to come which should have been felt the more from being provoked or invited by folly, weakness, vicious indulgence, or misconduct of some sort. The catastrophé in 'Redgauntlet' is made to turn on his connexion with Miss Walkingsbaw and his refusal to give her up, although she was more than suspected of conveying intelligence of all his movements to the British Court through her sister, who was lady-inwaiting to the Princess of Wales. Sir Walter Scott lays the scene in Cumberland in 1760. It took place at an earlier date, and the best authenticated account of the Pretender's secret visit to London represents him as being there in 1750. Il chassoit de race. Mary of Modena said of his grandfather, James II. : • The King was ready to sacrifice his throne to his 'belief; but he had not force of mind to give up a mistress.'
• The gods are just, and of our pleasant vices
Are made the whips to scourge us'. Never was there a more marked exemplification of this aphorism than Charles Edward's irregular connection with Miss Walkingshaw. After ruining him with his friends, she abandoned him under an allegation of ill-treatment which he denied, and fled to Paris, where she contrived to enlist the Archbishop of Paris on her side as well as the old Chevalier St. George, who, glad no doubt to separate her from his son, made her in