Front Page Titles (by Subject) III: SECRET HISTORY OF CHARLES II - Historical Essays and Studies
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
III: SECRET HISTORY OF CHARLES II - John Emerich Edward Dalberg, Lord Acton, Historical Essays and Studies 
Historical Essays and Studies, by John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton, edited by John Neville Figgis and Reginald Vere Laurence (London: Macmillan, 1907).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
SECRET HISTORY OF CHARLES II.1
In the register of the House of Novices of the Jesuits at Rome there is the following entry: Jacobus de la Cloche ingressus 11 Aprilis 1668. From another list, which is signed by the novice himself, we learn that he came from the island of Jersey, and was a subject of the King of England; that his age was about twenty-four; and that he presented himself for admission in the dress of an ecclesiastic, with scarcely any luggage but the clothes he wore. This youth, whose name occurs no more in the books of the Order, and has never yet been pronounced by history, was the eldest of the sons of Charles the Second, the elder brother of Monmouth, and destined to be for a moment his rival in the fanciful schemes of his father. So well was the secret of his birth preserved that throughout the long intrigue to save the Protestant succession, and to supplant the Duke of York by the son of Lucy Walters, no man ever discovered that there was another who, by his age and by his mother’s rank, had a better claim than the popular favourite, and who had voluntarily renounced the dazzling fortunes which were once within his grasp. The obscurity which he preferred has endured for nearly two hundred years, and even now is not entirely dispelled; but the facts which I have to relate add a new and interesting episode to the chequered history of the Stuarts, and clear up whatever remained uncertain as to the attachment of Charles II. to the Catholic Church.
This attachment, which excited so keenly the curiosity of the world, and influenced so many of the actions of his reign, has been admitted with greater unanimity by recent historians than by those who spoke from personal observation, and whom Charles succeeded in partially misleading. “It was not,” says the ablest of the statesmen who approached him, “the least skilful part of his concealing himself to make the world think he leaned towards an indifference in religion.”1 That belief was long since found to be untenable. Mr. Fox, and the author of the Annals of England, believe that he had been actually reconciled to the Catholic Church; and Mackintosh fixes the date of that event in the year 1658. Hallam justly rejects this opinion, but is certain that the king had imbibed during the period of his banishment a persuasion that if any scheme of Christianity was true, it could only be found in the bosom of an infallible Church. Dr. Vaughan believes that, so far as he could be said to have any religion, he was a Catholic; and Macaulay exactly agrees with Dr. Vaughan. Lingard, who declares his early professions of regard for Catholicism a pretence, supplies no psychological explanation of the discrepancy between the scene at his death and his previous insincerity; while Dod more reasonably considers the reconciliation at the last moment a proof that he had inwardly espoused the Catholic doctrines before.
Many things contributed during the life of Charles to spread and to keep alive the report of his conversion. His mother’s sincerity and zeal in religion were well known. She had attempted to instil the sentiments of her faith into her eldest daughter Mary, afterwards Princess of Orange, and although this was prevented by the king, she obtained his consent in her exile that their youngest child Henrietta should be educated a Catholic. At Paris Henrietta Maria exerted herself to induce the Duke of Gloucester to change his religion; and when the exhortations of Charles, the influence of Ormond, and the memory of the last solemn parting with his father prevailed against her efforts, she drove him from her presence. Charles I had feared that the religion of his queen would injure the cause of his son, and sent earnest warnings to both when the prince joined his mother in France. To the former he wrote from Oxford, 22nd March 1646: “I command you, upon my blessing, to be constant to your religion; neither hearkening to Roman superstitions, nor the seditious and schismatical doctrines of the Presbyterians and Independents; for know that a persecuted church is not thereby less pure, though less fortunate. For all other things I command you to be totally directed by your mother.”1 Shortly after, he wrote to the queen from Newcastle: “In God’s name, let him stay with thee till it is seen what ply my business will take; and, for my sake, let the world see that the queen seeks not to alter his conscience.”2 Clarendon entertained the same fears, and endeavoured to keep the prince at Jersey, away from his mother’s influence. But he bears testimony that, for six years, down to 1652, when the fortunes of the Stuarts seemed desperate, and the motives for prudence had disappeared with the hope of success, Henrietta Maria was sensible of the impolicy of a step which, more than any other act, must have alienated the English people from their king.3 That she recognised it at first we may conclude from the failure of the match between Charles and Mademoiselle de Montpensier, the cousin of Lewis XIV. That princess insisted that the difference of religion was an insurmountable obstacle; and Jermyn, who was conducting the business, and must have spoken the thoughts of the queen-mother, thereupon replied that the king could not change his religion for her sake without forfeiting for ever the crown of his kingdom.4
When, at length, it appeared certain that no chance of recovering the throne remained, except through the support of the Catholic Powers, the exiled courtiers began to debate whether some sacrifice might not be made for the purpose of obtaining their assistance. “The Protestant religion was found to be very unagreeable to their fortune, and very many exercised their thoughts most how to get handsomely from it. . . . Many made little doubt but that it would shortly be very manifest to the king that his restoration depended wholly upon a conjunction of Catholic princes, who could never be united but on the behalf of Catholic religion.”1 Digby, Clifford, and Bennet became Catholics, and proved their sincerity at their deaths; but they all agreed that it would be dangerous for Charles to imitate them. Clarendon, whose purpose it was to divert from his master the suspicion of popery, wished it to be believed that no religious scruples, no doubts in the orthodoxy of the Anglican Church, had ever invaded the exiled court, and that the Catholic inclinations or professions of some of its members were the effects of political design. He had argued with great force that even though Charles should give no cause for suspicion, the fact of his residence in a Catholic country would be a pretext for his enemies to accuse him. It would not be hard, he wrote to Jermyn, to persuade them who believed the king a papist when he was seen every day at Church in England, to believe the prince a papist when he had no church in France to go to.2 But the other advisers, who were less sturdy Protestants than the Chancellor, knew that nothing was to be expected for their cause from a change of religion. In the period of the administration of Mazarin and the peace of Westphalia, no reasonable man could believe that any State would incur the expense and the risk of war for the establishment of a Catholic dynasty in England; and even those who believed that Charles leaned from conviction towards Rome, and whose sympathies were on the same side, were careful to conceal the fact.3
A rumour reached their friends in England, and caused an extreme alarm. “There is a report,” wrote Mordaunt to Ormond, in November 1659, “so hot of your master’s being turned papist, that unless it be suddenly contradicted, and the world disabused by something coming expressly from him, it is likely, in this extraordinary conjuncture, to do him very great injury amongst his friends both in city and country, in both which his constancy all this while hath rendered him many considerable proselytes.”1 This letter justly represents the position of affairs, and the state of public feeling; and Clarendon took his measures to undeceive his party and to silence their enemies.
Yet, although political interest forbade a public declaration, there was truth in the reports circulated in England, and so stoutly contradicted by the royalists. It is certain that Charles had, during the last years of his exile, secretly adopted the Catholic faith, although the fear of detection prevented a formal abjuration of Protestantism. Burnet says he was received before he left Paris, and that Cardinal de Retz and Aubigny had a hand in it. This information he had obtained from two sources, and indirectly, he affirms, from Retz himself. When Charles was at Paris, after the flight from Worcester, he received instruction in religion from Olier, the celebrated founder of the seminary of St. Sulpice. His conferences were no secret, for Olier had informed his friends of his hopes, and entreated their prayers. They probably gave occasion to the exaggerated report of Burnet. Charles, it is true, wrote from Paris to the Pope to ask for assistance in recovering his dominions. Innocent would have been satisfied, under the circumstances, with a private abjuration; but this was refused, and the king could not even obtain an answer to his application.2 But although he was not received into the Church, he had advanced so far in his opinions that he might, as Thurloe affirmed, in his communications with the Spanish Government have declared himself in private to them to be a Catholic.3 Neither France nor Spain had any inducement to publish what would diminish the chances of monarchy in England, and strengthen a Government they feared and hated. The story that Ormond discovered Charles on his knees hearing mass in a church at Brussels comes to us through two independent channels, Carte and Echard. The latter supposes the ceremony of abjuration to have occurred when the king was at Fuentarabia, at the time of the treaty of the Pyrenees. There is much reason in a remark which is made by Welwood: “The truth is, King Charles was neither bigot enough to any religion, nor loved his ease so little, as to embark in a business that must at least have disturbed his quiet, if not hazarded his crown.”1
Ludovick Stuart, Lord Aubigny, to whom Burnet attributes the conversion of Charles, appeared at Whitehall immediately after the Restoration. In France, where he was educated and ordained, he had joined the party of Cardinal de Retz and the Jansenists, and had been made a canon of Notre Dame. As a relative of the royal family, and at one time an inmate of St. Sulpice, he was probably aware of the conferences which Olier, and perhaps others,2 held with Charles during his residence at Paris. In April 1661, he officiated at the private marriage of Charles with Catherine of Braganza, and became almoner to the queen. His royal descent, and the position he had already attained in the Church, pointed him out as a suitable person to conduct the projected intercourse between the English court and the Holy See. In order to obtain that office, he sought the aid of a more powerful negotiator.
His friend Cardinal de Retz had taken the foremost part in the troubles which distracted both Church and State in France in the days of the Fronde, and after balancing for a season the power of Mazarin, had been deserted by fortune, and suffered in banishment the disgrace both of the French and of the Roman court. Upon the death of Cromwel Ormond had recourse to him in the name of the king, who promised, if the Cardinal would obtain for him some assistance from the Pope, to protect the Catholics after his restoration. Retz, hoping that the merit of having secured a promise of indulgence for the Catholic subjects of the King of England would powerfully assist his own cause, undertook the negotiation, and sent one of his adherents, the Abbé Charier, to Rome. The envoy could not, however, obtain an audience of the Pope; and he was assured by one of the Cardinals that the promises of Charles had made no impression, and that the prospect of relief to the oppressed Catholics would never induce Alexander VII. to furnish him with money.1 The Restoration soon altered the position of affairs, and improved the prospects of the Cardinal. He came to London in 1660, and received not only promises of support from the king, but large sums of money, on condition that he would promote the objects which Charles was pursuing in the court of Rome. These objects were of such importance that the notion of a marriage with one of the nieces of Mazarin was entertained for a moment by Charles as a means of securing them,2 and was eagerly adopted by Retz for the purpose of recovering his favour at Paris. Mazarin despatched a special envoy to England charged with the mission of promoting the match. He found an auxiliary in Aubigny, who represented to Charles the beauty of the Cardinal’s nieces, but more particularly their virtue, of which, says the envoy, the king was much pleased to hear. Together with this futile intrigue, Retz was pleading at Whitehall for the Catholics, and at Rome for the settlement of that important affair to which the alliance with Mazarin and the elevation of Aubigny were expected to contribute. The first of these subsidiary negotiations was speedily abandoned; the other was pursued with a strange pertinacity for several years.
At first Charles desired a mitre for his kinsman,1 but he soon raised his demands, and insisted on having him created a cardinal. Clarendon, who was ignorant of the real design of which this was to be the prelude, entered into the idea, and drew up the instructions with which, in October 1662, the queen’s secretary, Sir Richard Bellings, was sent to Rome. In the following year the Chancellor’s share in these transactions was made a part of the abortive charge preferred against him by Bristol; and it appears from the articles that the great importance which was given to this negotiation, and the correspondence with the Roman cardinals, were generally known at the time. Retz advised Charles to secure the compliance of the Pope by sending a squadron to cruise off Civita Vecchia, and then proceeded to Hamburg to obtain the powerful intervention of the Queen of Sweden. He was charged at the same time with the distribution of a sum of fifteen thousand pounds, which Charles had determined to devote to the interests of Aubigny.2 Letters were written by both the Queens of England to Cardinal Orsini, Protector of Portugal, urging him to press the suit, and assuring him that if the promotion should be refused, lamentable consequences might be apprehended from the disappointment of the king. Orsini, after an interview with Bellings, warmly took up the cause, and declared in a letter to the famous Cardinal Pallavicini, that he might, by assisting him, render a great service to religion. They also wrote to the two most influential men in Rome, Cardinals Chigi and Azzolini, the latter of whom was an active promoter of the design. His letter to the king, of 8th April 1663, advising the continuation of his efforts, and that of Cardinal Chigi, written on the following day, are in the State Paper Office.3
The question was maturely debated at Rome, and an opinion was drawn up in favour of Aubigny, founded partly on the statements of Bellings, and partly on the elaborate memorials of Retz, in which the services of the king were set forth. This opinion was to the following effect: the Restoration had improved the condition of the Catholics, and whatever relief they enjoyed was due to the influence of Charles himself, and was disliked by the Parliament and the country. The abolition of the penal laws could not be expected, for the royal authority was competent only to suspend them. Indeed, it might be considered almost more advantageous, under the circumstances, that the laws should be suspended than toleration proclaimed. For the same disabilities from which the Catholics suffered extended in great part to the Presbyterians, and the other sects who were hostile to the monarchy. They could not therefore be abrogated without depriving the king of the weapons the law gave him to defend the crown against the Nonconformists, while a partial abolition would excite fresh envy against the Catholics, and add to the number of their enemies. Legislative toleration, inasmuch as its benefits would be shared by the Dissenters, was not to be desired, even if it could be obtained. It was necessary to rely solely on the power and the favour of the king. For his authority might be trusted not only as a security against the heretics, but also against that portion of the Catholics who were in opposition to the Jesuits. To his salutary influence was to be attributed the suppression of the measure for Catholic relief which had been brought forward in July 1662, in answer to the petition presented by that party, who had offered to swear that they did not hold the doctrine of the temporal authority of the Holy See, and that they would “oppose with their lives and fortunes the Pontiff himself, if he should ever attempt to execute that pretended power.”1 Again, when the Irish protestation of allegiance, which many leading Catholics had signed, was found in like manner to be very far removed from the obedience due to the Apostolic See, Charles had refused to countenance it, and had exhibited an unvarying respect for the Pope. Queen Henrietta Maria, who was now supporting the cause of Aubigny, had formerly obtained the same dignity for Conne, and only his death had prevented him from enjoying it. The state of the Catholics was more satisfactory and more hopeful than when the favour now asked for had been granted before, and the new king had in several ways shown that he was favourably disposed. Before leaving the Low Countries to ascend his throne, he had sent a rich present to the English nuns at Ghent. He had given audience to several Jesuits, and among others to two successive provincials, to whom he had promised his protection in case of need. He had been seen in a posture of adoration at high mass in the queen’s chapel.
These were the views at that time entertained at Rome concerning the religious character of Charles II., and the arguments advanced in support of the promotion of Aubigny. Nevertheless the demand was rejected. The Pope’s answer was conveyed in such terms that Charles was not offended, and accepted the explanation. The refusal, indeed, was only temporary. The solicitations of the English Court were soon after renewed, and they were at last successful. In November 1665, Aubigny, who was then at Paris, received his nomination, and died almost immediately after.1 His name does not appear in the list of the cardinals created by Alexander VII., but his elevation, and the influence by which it had been obtained, were known, and had excited hopes for the Catholic Church in this country, which caused his death to be regarded as a serious calamity. The general of the Jesuits, on hearing of it, wrote to one of his correspondents: “The clouds which are gathering over Holland, Poland, and Constantinople are so dense, that every prudent man must see reason to apprehend enormous catastrophes, and storms that will not be ended without irreparable disasters. But in my mind all these coming evils are overshadowed by the death of the Abbé Aubigny, which deprives the Church, for a time at least, of the joy of beholding an English cardinal of such illustrious blood, created at the public instances of two queens, and at the secret request of a king: a prodigy which would without doubt have confounded heresy, and inaugurated bright fortunes to the unhappy Catholics.”
The affair of the cardinal’s hat was not the principal object of the mission of Sir Richard Bellings. It was intended as a preliminary to that more important negotiation which the envoy was instructed to reserve if the first should fail, and inspired Queen Catherine with so much anxiety, and Cardinal Orsini with such sanguine hopes of the advancement of religion. The two queens knew that Charles was at heart a Catholic, and they pressed him to declare himself. He was now firmly seated on his throne; the Established Church had recovered its supremacy, and was not only profoundly loyal, but still strongly impregnated with those Catholic tendencies which had hastened its fall; the Puritans and Independents were yet prostrate beneath the ruins of their political system, and the great body that reverenced Baxter as their chief was comparatively tolerant. Charles, believing that the step which would have prevented his return might now be taken without involving the risk of a new revolution, resolved to feel his way towards a reconciliation with the Holy See. In addition to the instructions drawn up by Clarendon, Sir Richard Bellings carried to Rome proposals for the submission of the three kingdoms to the Church, and presented to Alexander VII. the king’s profession of faith.1 Charles declared that he was willing to accept the creed of Pius IV., the decrees of the Council of Trent and of all general Councils on faith and morals, and the decisions of the two last Pontiffs in the affair of the Jansenists, saving the particular rights and customs of the nation, as is the practice in France and in other countries, and provided always no new laws should be imposed upon his realm, and he should be free to complete in his own way the work of reconciliation. He declared that he renounced and detested all the heresies which had involved his country in ecclesiastical and civil troubles, and made England the most distracted State in the world. He undertook to restore the hierarchy as it was under Henry VIII.; and added that the Protestants should have toleration as long as they did not disturb the peace.
In this very remarkable document, Charles, who believed that many of his subjects would follow his example, gave one of the earliest instances of what has since been constantly witnessed,—that princes who, as head of the Protestant Church in their dominions, enjoy an almost unlimited authority, cannot view without jealousy the ecclesiastical liberty which is claimed by Catholicism. He carefully restricted the papal jurisdiction both of doctrine and discipline, and reserved to himself the rights which the Gallican system attributed to the secular power. He even proposed that the Church should abandon her essential function of judging and defining matters of faith as occasion should arise. Although this is a condition contrary to the nature of the Catholic Church, the document proposing it, which is followed by twenty-four articles on particular points, exhibits so much familiarity with ecclesiastical forms that it must have been drawn up by a Catholic hand. It is not probable that many persons were admitted on this occasion into the confidence of Charles. The whole scheme was not discussed beyond the door of the royal closet. It betrays the hand of a layman, for no priest could have expected the Church to discontinue her dogmatic progress; and Aubigny, the only priest likely to be consulted, was not likely to introduce the clause against Jansenism. Now we know that the secret was imparted to one lay Catholic, the agent who was charged with the negotiation. No man was more likely to be chosen for that important mission than he to whom the affair had been confided from the first, or who could discuss the proposals better than he who had helped to devise them. Bellings was a man of note and distinction among the Catholics in both islands, and was often employed by the court in confidential missions. His father had been one of the leaders in the opposition to the nuncio Rinuccini, and was the author of that protestation of allegiance which had been adopted by a large party in Ireland, and which was so badly received at Rome. The son was, therefore, not unlikely to suggest those limitations of ecclesiastical authority which he undertook to defend, and which corresponded with the views of his father and of those who, in the language of Bristol, were Catholics of the Church of Rome, not of the court of Rome.
The answer of Alexander was probably not very encouraging, for the negotiation was broken off. A suspicion was awakened that the king was in correspondence with the Pope, and Charles, in his alarm, took measures to prove his aversion of Catholicism. He opened Parliament on the 18th of February 1663 with a demand for new laws to restrain the progress of popery, and gave his assent to a proclamation ordering all priests to quit the kingdom under pain of death. He explained, five years later, in a letter to which I shall presently return, the failure of his negotiation, and the inconsistency of his subsequent conduct: “Quoy qu’elle nous fust présentée avec touttes les circonstances necessaires, et par personne catholique, touttefois ce ne peut estre avec tant de prudence que nous ne fussions soupçonnés d’intelligence avec le pape par les plus clairvoyants de nostre cour; mais ayant trouvé le moyen d’étouffer le soubçon que l’on començoit d’avoir que nous fussions catholique, nous fusmes obligé, crainte de ne le faire renaistre dans les esprits, de consentir aux occasions a plusieurs choses tournant au desavantage de plusieurs catholiques de nostre royaume d’Hybernie, ce qui est cause encore que bien que nous eussions escry assez secrettement à sa saincteté pour nostre rangement à l’eglise catholique, au mesme temps que nous prions sa saincteté de faire cardinal nostre très cher cousin le Milord d’Aubigny, dont nous fumes refusés pour bonnes raisons, nous n’avons peu poursuyvre nostre pointe.” The scheme was not resumed for several years. Times were not propitious. The Dutch war, the Plague, the Fire, the Triple Alliance, intervened. Public animosity was inflamed against the Catholics; and Charles had no confidential agent whom he could employ without danger to propose, if not the reconciliation of the country, for which he was not disposed to make great efforts or great sacrifices, at least his own submission to the Catholic Church. During this interval, Jacques de la Cloche made his appearance for the first time in England.
In the spring 1646, during his first residence in Jersey, Charles fell in love with a young lady of high rank, who became the mother of a child, who enjoyed the prerogative, denied to all the other natural children of the king, of bearing his father’s name. He was called James Stuart, and was brought up in the Protestant religion on the Continent. “Il nous est né lorsque nous n’avions guères plus de seize on 17 ans, d’une jeune dame des plus qualifiées de nos royaumes, plustost par fragilité de nostre première jeunesse que par malice.” The last words appear to indicate Charles’s respect for the mother and the care with which he protected her fame. Unlike the Clevelands and Portsmouths who afterwards disgraced his court, the lady who was the object of his earliest attachment obtained of her royal lover the concealment of her fault, and her name has never been divulged. She is nowhere mentioned in the correspondence relating to her son; and if she died before his arrival in England, the reputation of her family may have induced the king to conceal his birth. After the Restoration he allowed him to remain abroad unnoticed, and under the disguise of an assumed name, until the year 1665. In that year he sent for him to England, supplied him with money, and gave him a certificate in which he recognised him as his son, but which he commanded him to show to nobody whilst his father lived. This document, written and signed by Charles’s own hand, and sealed with his private seal, is dated Whitehall, 27th September 1665,—a time at which the plague was at its height, and the court was not in London. For greater security he obliged his son once more to change his name. That which he had borne till then is not known. He was now called James de la Cloche du Bourg. It is not easy to say whether the last of these names may afford some clue to the discovery of his mother’s family among the three thousand royalists who took refuge in Jersey at the same time as the Prince of Wales.1 The former name had been made popular in that island when Charles arrived there by the spirit with which Mr. de la Cloche, a clergyman, had resisted the authority of Government.2 After lying nearly a year in prison, he was released upon the arrival of the Prince, and then left the island. Had his release anything to do with Charles’s private affairs? Was the boy christened by him, or afterwards committed to his charge?
James was unwilling to remain in England. It was not his country; he did not speak the language; he had no career and no recognised station; and his position was not to his taste. He had made great proficiency in his studies abroad, and he desired to continue them in the Dutch universities. His father did not know what to do with him in England, and allowed him to go. Eighteen months later, on the 7th of February 1667, he sent him another document, recognising his birth, and directing his successor to give him £500 a year. A condition was attached to the grant of this pension, that it could be enjoyed only while the claimant resided in London, and remained faithful to the religion of his fathers and to the Anglican liturgy. Six months after receiving this letter, on the 29th of July 1667, James Stuart became a Catholic at Hamburg.
The Queen of Sweden, who filled Europe with the fame of her abdication, her abjuration, her talents, and her eccentricities, was for the second time residing at Hamburg, and appears again on the scene of the secret history of Charles. She signed a paper for his son, certifying that he had been received into the Church at that particular place and time, in order that he might be able, in case of need, to satisfy his confessor of the identity of the convert of Hamburg with the Protestant whom the King of Great Britain had privately recognised as his son. This was now necessary, because he had determined, immediately after his conversion, to enter the novitiate of the Jesuits. Christine knew who he was, probably because he had been compelled to apply to her chaplains, or at least for her protection, in order to be received. The Senate of Hamburg exercised with extreme severity the right which the Treaties of Westphalia gave to each Government of exacting religious conformity; and the neighbouring town of Altona, peopled by the Catholics, Anabaptists, and Jews whom the Lutherans had expelled, grew up a monument of the intolerance of the Free City. The queen had attempted, some years before, to obtain freedom of conscience for her own religion through the intervention of the Catholic Powers; but the Emperor, whose rights were derived from the same treaty by which the senate justified its rigour, and who was not disposed to surrender them, refused to disturb the settlement of Münster. At the very time when James was converted, the town had been thrown into confusion by the uproar caused by a fête which Christine gave, in the midst of a Protestant population, to celebrate the election of Clement IX. Charles was much annoyed to learn that she was in his son’s confidence. “She is prudent and wise,” he said; “but she is a woman, and that is enough to make us doubt whether she is able to keep a secret.”
James de la Cloche was hardly settled at Rome when his father determined to have him about his court. That vast intrigue had just commenced which was to raise France to the pinnacle of power, and which, by a timely subservience, promised to emancipate the princes of the House of Stuart from the control of Parliament, and from the terrors which had postponed the king’s design of reconciliation with Rome. In that conspiracy the motives of religious belief and political ambition were strangely blended. Turenne, who was destined to be the foremost actor in the execution of the design, was a sincere Calvinist. He had shortly before refused the great dignity of Constable of France, when it was tendered as the reward of his conversion. On the 23rd of October 1668 Turenne became a Catholic. He was shortly after followed by his old lieutenant, a confederate in the new scheme, the Duke of York. James had applied to the Provincial of the Jesuits, and then to the Pope, for permission to conceal his religion, and had been told that it was impossible. With this answer he caught the conscience of the king. On the feast of the conversion of St. Paul, 1669, Charles summoned his Catholic counsellors, declared with tears how uneasy he was not to profess the faith which he believed, and consulted them as to the best mode of carrying out his resolutions. They concluded that the only way was to do it in conjunction with France.1 A few months before this resolution was finally taken, in August 1668, Charles had written to the General of the Jesuits to send him his son, whose presence he needed for the good of his soul.
He had long sought in vain, the king said to Oliva, for a person with whom he could confer on spiritual matters without creating suspicion. The priests who lived in London were so well known that no disguise could conceal them;2 but the conversion of his son, and his entrance into Orders, at length gave him an opportunity of receiving the sacraments without alarming the Protestant zeal of his subjects. His son might remain unknown, as the queens alone were aware of his existence; but before long he should be publicly acknowledged. “Plusieurs raisons considérables, et concernantes la paix de nos royaumes, nous ont empesché jusques à présent de le reconnestre publiquement pour notre fils; mais ce sera pour peu de temps, parceque nous sommes maintenant en dessein de faire en sorte de le reconnestre publiquement devant peu d’années.” In case he was not a priest, and could not be ordained before starting, Charles directed that he should go to Paris, and address himself either to the king or to the Duchess of Orleans, who knew of his own design, and would have James ordained without betraying his rank; or, if he preferred it, the two queens would find an opportunity for his ordination in England. As soon as he had received his father into the Church, he would be free either to return to Rome or to live in England, so as to be within call; but not in London, lest people should suspect that the king’s son was a Jesuit. This was written on the 3rd of August. On the 29th, Charles, having heard that the Queen of Sweden was on her way to Rome, wrote again to hasten the departure of his son; for he feared that Christine, if she saw him, would discover the purpose of his intended journey. If that should become known in England, he said, it would infallibly cost him his life. He therefore desired that his son, instead of stopping at Paris, should come with all speed to London, and there make himself known to the queen-mother by delivering to her a sealed letter in the form of a petition. This letter was scarcely sealed, when he wrote a third time to the General. It had occurred to his mother and his wife that a novice is not allowed among the Jesuits to travel alone. Charles hoped that this regulation would be dispensed with, and that his son would be permitted to set out by himself in the dress of a layman. Secret warning had already been given at the southern ports that a foreign prince, whose appearance was described as near that of James as possible, was about to seek refuge in England, and would arrive without any companion. The presence of a Jesuit father would have spoilt this plan. The better to meet the arrangements which had been made, the novice was to call himself Henry de Rohan, a name well known as that of one of the great Huguenot families of France. Charles declared on his royal word, en foy de roy, that the sole object of his letters was the salvation of his soul, and the good of his son and of the Order, and that he would either induce the Pope to make him a cardinal, or allow him, if he should prefer it, to remain a simple religious.
In the middle of October 1668 the young ecclesiastic started for England, disguised as a French cavalier. Together with his letters to Oliva, Charles had written to him in terms of the warmest affection. The temper of Parliament, he said, had hitherto made it necessary to defer the public acknowledgment of his birth, but the time was approaching when it would be possible for him to assume the rank which belonged to him. It behoved him, therefore, to reflect maturely on his altered prospects before entering irrevocably into sacred orders. His title was better than that of the Duke of Monmouth, and he had a right of precedence over him, “par touttes raisons, et à cause de la qualité de votre mère.” The queen was childless, and the children of the Duke of York were delicate; and if the Catholic religion should be restored in England he would have a claim to the crown: “Nous pouvons vous asseurer que si Dieu permet que nous et notre très honoré frère le duc d’Yorck mourons sans enfans, les royaumes vous apartient, et le parlement ne peut pas legitimement s’y opposer; si ce n’est qu’en matière d’estre catholique vous en soyez exclus. . . . Croyez que nous vous avons toujours eu une affection particulière non seulement à cause que vous nous este né dans nostre plus tendre ieunesse, lorsque nous n’avions guères plus de 16 ou 17 ans, que particulièrement à cause de l’excelent naturel que nous avons toujours remarqué en vous.”
Prince James Stuart, as the king now calls him, remained scarcely a fortnight in England. On the 18th of November he was sent back to Rome on a secret mission to the General of the Jesuits, with directions to return as soon as he had obtained what the king desired. It does not appear what that was. It is probable that Charles wished, like his brother, to be allowed to keep his change of religion a secret; and the application which James says that he made to the Pope at this time may have been conveyed, on the part of both brothers, by the youth whom Charles had already selected to be the medium of communication with the Holy See. The Duke of York’s letter to the Pope required secrecy, and we know that no messenger was trusted by Charles but the young Stuart himself. This was not, however, the only condition he desired to exact in making his submission to the Holy See. We have seen the tenor of his demands in 1662. In his letters to his sister, published by Dalrymple, he mentions other points, which on the former occasion were probably included in the clause allowing him to carry out the details of the restoration of Catholicism in his own way. “He talks,” says Hallam, who has investigated the history of this period more carefully than any other writer, “of a negotiation with the court of Rome to obtain the permission of having mass in the vulgar tongue, and communion in both kinds, as terms that would render his conversion agreeable to his subjects.”1 Before departing for Rome, James must have assured his father that his resolution was fixed, and that he would live and die a Jesuit. Charles, who had promised not to interfere with his vocation, gave him a large subsidy for the new novitiate at St. Andrea on the Quirinal, which Oliva was then erecting, in addition to the old building of St. Francis Borgia. He also desired that on this second journey his son should be accompanied by a Jesuit; for, as he was not a priest, he was unable to receive his father into the Church, or to administer the sacraments to him. With these instructions James left England. From that day he disappears from history; and after his arrival in Rome, in November or December 1868, the name of De la Cloche, by which he was known in the novitiate, figures no more in the books of the society.
Towards the close of the year a young gentleman, who passed for an Englishman, and travelled with a servant and a well-stored purse, took up his abode at a very humble inn at Naples. The host had a daughter, Teresa Corona, whose extraordinary beauty won the heart of the guest. After he had satisfied the ecclesiastical authorities that he was a Catholic, they were married on the 19th of February 1669. It was not long before the attention of the neighbours was roused by their manner of life. Gold was observed to be suspiciously plentiful in the household of the poor innkeeper, and it began to be whispered that his English son-in-law was related to the King of Great Britain. Rumours came to the ear of the Spanish viceroy, who, in his solicitude for the honour of royalty, caused the stranger to be arrested. Letters were found in his possession bearing the title of Highness, together with many jewels and heaps of pistoles. He declared that he was Prince James Stuart, a son of the King of England, born in Jersey; and he sent for the English consul in order to obtain his release. But he could neither speak English nor give any satisfactory evidence in support of his statement. The viceroy wrote to England to ascertain the truth of the story, and in the meantime treated his captive as a prisoner of State, and sent him to the fortress of Gaeta, whilst he shut up his wife in a convent. Nobody knew what to believe. “Which,” writes the English agent, Kent. to Williamson, on the 30th of March, “whether will end in prince or cheat I shall endeavour to inform you hereafter.” The bewildered governor allowed his prisoner fifty crowns a month for his maintenance, and permitted his wife’s family to visit him. Early in June came the answer of King Charles to the viceroy, who thereupon proclaimed the mysterious personage an impostor, removed him from his honourable confinement at Gaeta to the dungeons for common malefactors at Naples, and condemned him to be whipped through the city. Teresa Corona was taken from her convent on the discovery of her husband’s real character; and the story, which was believed at the time, goes on to say that instead of being punished he was released at her intercession, and allowed to go to France, on a visit, as he affirmed, to his mother. Two months later he was again at Naples, asserting that his mother was dead. He called her the Lady Mary Stuart, of the house of the Barons of St. Mars, as it is in the contemporary English translation, or of San Marzo, as it stands in the Italian copy of his will; and said that it was in consequence of her relationship with the royal family that the king was unwilling to acknowledge him. The will is dated 24th August 1669, and two days later the testator died, reiterating his statements in the same breath in which he recommended his soul to the mercy of God and the intercession of Our Lady, in terms of the deepest piety and resignation. He appointed his cousin, Lewis XIV., his executor; demanded of Charles, for his unborn child, either the principality of Wales or Monmouth, or a royal dukedom, with an income of a hundred thousand crowns, besides his mother’s fortune, amounting to £16,000 a year; and left enormous legacies to his wife’s relations and to the Church. “And this,” says Kent, “is the end of that princely cheat, or whatever he was.” The cautious agent did not venture to determine the adventurer’s quality; and in the manuscript letter of news sent weekly to the English Government, called the Gazzetta di Roma, from which most of his information was derived, the Englishman is constantly called the English prince.
Yet none of these contemporaries knew that there was actually at that time a son of King Charles born at Jersey of a lady of high rank, privately addressed as Highness, provided with money, and speaking French as his native tongue. Had they known it, and could they have discovered that the illegitimate prince was really called James Stuart; that though a novice he was not ordained; and that all authentic traces of him were at an end from the moment of his arrival in Italy, at the very time when the English traveller put up at the inn of Corona,—if, in short, their knowledge had extended generally as far as ours, and had stopped where ours stops, it is probable that they would not have hesitated to believe in the claims of the prisoner at Gaeta. The king’s denial, and what followed, would not have shaken their conviction. Charles was always careful to conceal the existence of his son, and he was particularly tender of the mother’s name. When informed that the young Jesuit who had refused his favour, and had gone forth to prepare the way for his father’s conversion, was the husband of a publican’s daughter at Naples, and had been thrown into prison after apprising the people of his rank and wealth, he would certainly not have responded to the appeal of the viceroy by a public acknowledgment. It was necessary, in order to shield the father, that the son should be proclaimed an impostor, and sentenced to condign punishment. But it was not necessary that he should be actually punished. Charles’s interests were satisfied by his removal to the felons’ prison, his sentence, and his immediate pardon. If the accusation had been true, the pardon could not have followed instantly on the discovery; the culprit, after leaving the scene of his disgrace, would not voluntarily have returned so soon; and he would not have mingled with his dying prayers the solemn repetition of a lie, which could serve no further purpose but to bring down disappointment and notoriety on his widow. The claims which he prefers for his child, though inconsistent with his own disinterested conduct, might have proceeded from a natural anxiety to provide for his posterity.
This is the case for the prisoner. It falls to the ground in cross-examination. The tenor of the will itself is fatal to it. The real James Stuart, who was sure of being able to obtain every just demand, would not have compromised the reasonable prospects of his family by the falsehoods and the extravagance of this document. He had, moreover, in his possession papers which proved his claim, and would have delivered him from the rigours of the Spanish governor. There was no reason for his sudden appearance at Naples at the very moment when he was charged with a negotiation of the greatest moment to his father, his Church, and himself. Nor would he have called his mother by a name and title which are unquestionably fictitious. And yet in that imaginary name and title there may perhaps be found a key to the mystery of the birth of the young James Stuart. For though the Neapolitan adventurer was an impostor, he enjoyed good sources of information, and possessed, though imperfectly, the secrets of King Charles’s son. He knew that he was born at Jersey, and that his birth had been recognised by his father, and he had secured some of his papers and some of his property. All the wealth he showed at Naples did not come from that source, for the young novice was not so rich, and the impostor must have robbed other people. But he had certainly either accompanied, as his servant, the man he represented, or stolen his letters. Whatever be the secret of this strange adventure, it is so certain that it was not the real James Stuart who died at Naples in August 1669, that it is worth while to institute a further inquiry as to the probable events of his subsequent career.1
He must have returned almost immediately to his father’s court; but here too he was compelled to lay aside the name which he had borne on his former journey. The same Henry de Rohan could not twice in two months seek an asylum in England without awakening the suspicions of that suspicious age. The name which he finally assumed is unknown, and we are unable with certainty to trace him further. But it can hardly be doubted that among the French Jesuits of that period the eldest son of Charles II. may yet be identified. He was by speech and education a Frenchman, and it is likely that he again took a French name, and completed his novitiate in France or in Flanders. Had he quitted the Order, he would have taken with him the grant of his pension, which lies at Rome. Had he returned to Rome, he would have resumed his former name. Had he remained in England, it is hard to believe that he could have escaped discovery at the time of the Popish Plot, or among the clergy who frequented the palace. He did not succeed in effecting the actual reconciliation of his father with the Church, for it is certain that that event did not occur before the eve of Charles’s death. When Charles feared that his brother would expose himself to danger by bringing a priest, and when James declared he would do it at the risk of his life, they could only allude to the law which made it penal to receive a convert. The mere administration of the Sacrament to one already Catholic could get no one into trouble. Huddlestone says that the king declared “that he was most heartily sorry for all the sins of his past life, and particularly for that he had defferred his reconciliation so long.” This is implicitly confirmed by what he told Aprice, another priest, who wrote ten days later: “As Mr. Huddlestone himself has told me, by a particular instance of God’s grace, the king was as ready and apt in making his confession, and all other things, as if he had been brought up a Catholic all his lifetime.”1 If we had not these proofs that Charles had not been received into the Church before his last illness, still there could be no doubt upon the subject, as the application of James for leave to conceal his religion was rejected, and the publication would also, in the case of the king, have been the necessary condition of his admission into the Church.
James Stuart’s ministrations to his father must therefore have been confined to the discussion of the Catholic doctrines. It is possible that a memorial of these discussions and exhortations may still be extant. Manuscript copies of the two papers on religion, in the handwriting of Charles, which were found in his cabinet and published by his brother, were sent to Rome by Father Giudici, the confessor of Mary Beatrice. These copies, attested by King James’s own signature, are in French. That which was printed in England was a translation. It would have been useless to publish a French text in England, where an immediate and general effect was required. There could be no object in sending a copy of the translation to Rome, where the original could be understood and interpreted. The title of the copies in Rome proves that the publication had already taken place. If the originals were printed, it would have been enough to send a printed copy, which would have possessed greater authenticity than a manuscript translation. It is impossible to compare the French and the English versions without perceiving that the latter is a translation of the former—inelegant, somewhat abridged, and not entirely faithful. The word apogrifes, which occurs in the French for apocryphes, shows that the papers were in the writing of a person who did not know theology. Father Giudici would not have allowed it to stand in the copy if it were not in the original manuscript of the king; but in the English edition the word was altogether omitted, probably because it would not be understood by Protestants in the sense in which the writer used it.
These papers, though in the handwriting of Charles II., were not composed by him. They are in the form of an argument, addressed by one person to another. For this he had no occasion, and he had no reason to write them in French. On the same ground, they cannot have been written by Bristol or Aubigny, to whom Burnet is inclined to attribute them. Bristol did not converse with the king in French. Aubigny, it is true, had spent most of his life in France, but he had not forgotten his native language. Little is known concerning him, but it is on record that his knowledge of English once saved his life. He was attacked at night by two English bloodhounds, who were kept in the garden of the Jacobins, and he pacified them by speaking to them in English.1 Tallemant, who tells the tale, adds, that a thief who, being a Frenchman, had no means of making himself intelligible to the foreign dogs, was seized by them in getting over the wall, and soon despatched.
An ecclesiastic who conferred with Charles concerning his conversion after he had ascended the throne, and who knew French better than English, must have been the author of these compositions. This would bring the evidence to bear on the French priests about the queen-mother or the Duke of York, such as Mansuète or La Colombière. But the tone of these writings is not that which would be adopted by a foreign priest addressing the king. They are written with confidence, frankness, and even familiarity, and they must have been written by one who, though he could not write in English, might consider himself an Englishman. England is more than once spoken of as “nostre Angleterre.” There is reason, therefore, to suspect that we have in these letters a record of the religious earnestness and filial piety of the Stuart who preferred a cloister to the steps of his father’s throne.
Two years after the day when we lose site of James Stuart, the question of the reconciliation of Charles II. with the Catholic Church had become a part of European politics, and an element in confederations and treaties. Lewis XIV. proposed that D’Estrées, then Bishop of Laon, and afterwards cardinal, the most successful negotiator in his kingdom, should be employed to bring the matter before the Holy See. Charles received the proposal coldly. He told the French ambassador that he had already made choice of an English priest to treat with the Pope for his conversion, and that instructions were being prepared for him.1 Arlington undertook to hasten his departure; but he was then at St. Omers, and the illness of Clement IX. made the king anxious to wait, as he did not wish, he said, to confide his secret to a dying man. It is most probable that the English priest at St. Omers, whom Charles had already arranged to send to Rome, was the same through whom he had previously opened the business. On his return from Rome at the end of the year 1668, Prince James Stuart found that the king had resolved to discuss his design with the ministers, and that the great interests involved, and the choice of the mode, and the time of declaring himself, would necessarily postpone the event. The negotiation with France for the dissolution of the Triple Alliance, on which it depended, required time, both on account of the secrecy which had to be preserved, and of the vast preparations which were made for the war, which was to be the signal for the change. James must have perceived that his time had not arrived, and he was doubtless anxious to finish his novitiate and to receive ordination. It is natural to conclude that he would retire to some house of the Society where he could satisfy this desire, and still be at hand whenever his father’s plans were ripe, and he should be summoned to be the instrument for their accomplishment. The college of St. Omers, or the neighbouring English novitiate at Watten, would be the fittest and likeliest place for him to inhabit.
We have no other probable record of his life. Once more, in the midst of the excitement of the Popish Plot, the mysterious figure of a foreign priest crosses the life of Charles. A gentleman told Welwood that he was employed to bring over privately a Romish priest, then beyond sea, by whose means the king had some secret matters to manage. The king and the priest wore a considerable time together alone in the closet. At last the priest came out, with all the marks of fright and astonishment in his face. Charles had been seized with a fit, and the priest would have called for help; but the king, who feared that their interview should become known, had strength and resolution to hold him till he had recovered his speech.1 Was this priest, with whom Charles was in correspondence, whom he caused to be fetched secretly from foreign parts, and the discovery of whose presence he so passionately dreaded, his own son?
Among the letters of Oliva there is one that bears no date, addressed to a king who is not named, respecting a certain Jesuit, whose name is also concealed. This father, it appears, had received from the king an important office, which he used for the purpose of interfering in affairs of State, and had not only made enemies by his imprudence, but had injured the interests of the king, and had alienated, by the acrimony and disrespect of his language, persons who belonged to the royal party. He was accused of bearing himself more like a prince than a religious, and his superiors feared that when the king, who was the protector of the Society, should be no more, they would incur great dangers through the animosity he had provoked. The General, therefore, asked leave to summon the father to Rome, promising that he should be treated with kindness. Of the seven kings then living in Europe, two, those of Sweden and Denmark, could not have been in friendly communication with the Jesuits, and neither of them in any way deserved to be called their protector. In France, in Spain, and in Portugal, it is difficult to understand what could be meant by the royal party, or by the fear of great calamities on the death of the king. Poland and England alone remain. Now there are in the collection other letters of Oliva to the King of Poland, and no secret is made about his name. The position of this father must have been quite peculiar. It is clear that he was not the king’s confessor, and that he was not, like Father Petre, officially employed in political affairs; yet he had received from the king such a position that he could not be recalled like an ordinary Jesuit, and that the General was obliged to use elaborate precautions in order to obtain the king’s consent, and to make the measure appear in his eyes as gentle as possible. This suggests a suspicion of some mystery. The general of the Jesuits writes to a sovereign, whose name he does not venture to publish, for permission to summon to Rome a father of the Society, who, though neither the confessor of the king nor a member of the Council, possesses considerable influence, and enjoys so much of the royal favour that, although his imprudence has injured the court, a pledge must be given in removing him that he will be treated well. If we imagine the Jesuit James Stuart established in England exercising some influence over his father and the men of his confidence, and led astray, partly by zeal, partly by the presumption engendered by his royal descent, to commit some acts of imprudence, such as those which were so soon after so greatly exaggerated by popular rumour, and so cruelly punished by the popular fanaticism, it would exactly answer all the conditions of the case. These letters of Oliva were prepared for publication by himself. Everything that is omitted is therefore designedly omitted, and the same caution which obliged him to conceal the name of the sovereign whom he addressed would have prohibited any more distinct allusion by which the position of the offending Jesuit might be betrayed.
These grounds, however, are far from sufficient to justify us in believing that James Stuart, who began life with so much discretion and reserve, afterwards became an ambitious and intriguing politician, and put in jeopardy his father’s crown and the fortunes of his Order. That Order occupied in Poland a position in which great influence at court was combined with great unpopularity with his party among the nobles. At the election of 1668, a cry was raised that the new king should be forbidden to have a Jesuit for his confessor; and, at the same time, the grand Hetman, Sobieski, was taking a Jesuit confessor with him to bless his arms in the Turkish war. To him, in the year 1673, Oliva sent his congratulations on his election. He tells him that the Jesuits whom he may place over his conscience or his chapel must be faithful to their rule, and abstain from politics; and in speaking of the new king’s affection for the society he uses a word, svisceratamente, that occurs in the same connection in the letter which is not directed. It may therefore refer to a father to whom Sobieski had committed some important functions in his court, and the name of the patron may be omitted lest the name of the offender should be surmised. Long after the probable date of this letter, John sent a bitter complaint to Oliva of the faults of the brethren in Poland. “I feel bound,” he said, “both by interest and affection, to advise you to seek a remedy for the growing evils, and to remove from the Jesuits in Poland the too visible contagion of ambition and cupidity.”1 Between his predecessor and Oliva there had also been a friendly correspondence. Michael Korybuth was afflicted with a fabulous voracity. The stories told of the classical gluttons of antiquity are eclipsed by his horrible achievements. Once, it is related, the burghers of Dantzig presented him with a thousand China apples, and before night he had devoured them all. Oliva, like a prudent general, attacked this monarch at his weak point. A quantity of the finest chocolate has been sent to him from Mexico, and he straightway despatches one of his fathers to lay it at the feet of the King of Poland, “impelled,” he says, “by a reverent solicitude to minister as well as I can to the weakness of your stomach, which has already been fortified by drugs of this kind.” On the whole, then, it is most probable that James Stuart is not the subject of the General’s letter to the nameless correspondent; and comparing his letters written to the two kings it is more likely to have been sent to John Sobieski than to his respected but inglorious predecessor.
The manuscripts I have quoted, most of which I owe to the industry and kindness of Father Boero, librarian of the Gesù,1 by whose care they have been brought to light and transcribed, reveal the influence actually exerted by religious sentiment in those transactions between Charles and Lewis XIV., which, as the occasion of the Popish Plot, and the commencement of that policy which terminated in the Revolution of 1688, occupy so important a place in our history. The intention of declaring himself a Catholic manifested by the king in the early part of his reign, and checked by the attitude of Parliament, was revived, as we have seen, in the summer of 1668. In the month of April Charles first expressed to the ambassador of Lewis the wish to form an alliance with his master.1 As he had lately joined a league of Protestant Powers, whose purpose it was to arrest the ambition of that monarch, he desired that the understanding between them might be private. He said that he wished to treat as between gentlemen, and that he preferred the word of Lewis to all the parchments in the world. At first Lewis received these advances with reserve, and Charles and his brother were unwilling to trust to the ambassador the secret object of their overtures. But early in 1669 Lord Arundel was sent to Paris, accompanied by Sir Richard Bellings,2 who was instructed to draw up the articles of the treaty by which England was to join France against the Dutch; while Lewis undertook to support Charles with money, that he might be able to declare himself a Catholic without having a parliament to fear. Of the two leading ministers of the Cabal, the Catholic Arlington was friendly to the Dutch alliance, whilst Buckingham, a Protestant, was a partisan of France. Though the latter encouraged the notion of a French alliance, he knew nothing of his master’s design relative to the Catholic religion. It was confided to Arlington, and at length overcame his political scruples, but he was never reconciled to the war with Holland, and he endeavoured to postpone hostilities until the change of religion had been declared. The French envoy suspected that he wished to delude Lewis into supplying the means by which the king’s conversion could be published without danger, and when that was done, to avoid quarrelling with the Dutch. The confidential envoys of Charles at Paris evidently entertained the same idea,1 and the scheme was near succeeding.
Charles opened his mind to the French ambassador, the brother of the great Colbert, on the 12th of November 1669. It was, he said, the most important secret of his life, and he would probably be considered mad, and all those with him who were undertaking to restore Catholicism in England. Nevertheless he hoped, with the help of Lewis, to succeed in that great work. The sects hated the Established Church more than the Catholic religion, and would make no resistance if they obtained the freedom they desired. The great fortresses were in the hands of trusty men, and the Irish army might be relied upon, for Lord Orrery, who was at heart a Catholic, wold take the lead if Ormond should refuse. On this point Charles was mistaken, for Orrery was sent for, and had an interview with the king, in which he was informed of the design, and refused to take part in it.2 “He ended by saying that he was urged by his conscience, and by the confusion he saw increasing daily in his kingdom, to the diminution of his authority, to declare himself a Catholic; and that, besides the spiritual advantage he would derive from it, he considered also that it was the only way of restoring the monarchy.” Lewis applauded the intention, but advised that it should be postponed until after the war; for he feared that he might be deprived of the assistance of England by the internal dissensions which that measure would be sure to provoke. These two influences contended for a while in the mind of Charles, but he had not strength of purpose to resist the pressure that came from France.
Arlington said of him, that he saw at once what was to be done in every affair that was submitted to him, and supported his opinion with good reasons, but that he did not take the trouble to go into the objections that were made, and, if he was spoken to again, often allowed himself to be carried away by the opinions of others.1 This description was now verified. Charles shrank from the incongruity of the life he was then leading with a conversion which would be an arduous political undertaking. “The danger,” says Colbert, “greatly alarms all who are in the secret, yet it has no effect on the mind of the king. But his mode of life—un peu de libertinage, si j’ose parler ainsi—makes him put it off as long as he can.” The famous journey of Henrietta, Duchess of Orleans, to Dover, in May 1670, settled the question in favour of France. The treaty which was then signed by the four Catholic counsellors of Charles was first published from the English copy by Lingard. Mignet gives it from the French archives, and the texts do not entirely correspond.
Henrietta was in the secret of the whole scheme from the beginning, and we learn through her that Charles was at that time in direct communication with the Holy See. There was a French prelate whom she patronised, Daniel de Cosnac, Bishop of Valence and afterwards Archbishop of Aix, a clever, witty, and extravagant man, highly ambitious of a cardinal’s hat. A year before the treaty was signed she wrote to him that, among a variety of affairs which were being treated between France and England, this country would soon have one with Rome of such consequence, and on account of which the Pope would be so happy to oblige the king her brother, that she was persuaded he would refuse him nothing. She had already taken her measures with him to make him ask for a cardinal’s hat, without saying for whom; Charles had promised, and it was to be for Cosnac.2 After her return from Dover, but a few days before that tragic death scene which Bossuet has made memorable by the most striking of his orations, she informed the Bishop that she had succeeded in her mission, and that her brother had given her his word once more. Cosnac was not satisfied with these assurances. The influence of a Protestant king appeared to him a poor security for his elevation. But the Duchess told him that she not only had her brother’s promise, but that the Pope had already granted his request, and she informed him, he says, of all that had passed between Pope Clement IX. and the Kings of France and England.1 This statement is not, however, supported by any of her letters that have been preserved; and we must bear in mind the judgment of his biographer, the Abbé de Choisy, on the character of Cosnac: “He is a man of surprising vivacity, and of such eloquence that it is impossible to doubt his words, although their number is so great that they cannot all be true.” The agent on this occasion appears to have been the Lady Diana Digby, daughter of the Earl of Bristol, who had been so eager, six years before, to bring home to Clarendon a charge of corresponding with the Pope and cardinals. In June 1669, she arrived at Rome, in the coach of Cardinal Rospigliosi, the Pope’s nephew, and lived for a time in one of his palaces so privately that her own cousin, James Russell, was not allowed to see her. But she was in correspondence with the English priests, and it was believed in Rome that the nomination of Archbishop Plunket to the See of Armagh, which was much opposed by Spain, had been obtained by her influence.2
Before anything could be done, the design was again betrayed, and once more, and for the last time, Parliament intervened. It was generally believed that the object of the war against Holland was the establishment of the Catholic faith. It is said that Arlington divulged the secret, partly in order to ruin Clifford, and partly to dissolve the French alliance. Even Protestant statesmen, talking in private with the king, spoke of it as a thing about which there was neither doubt nor concealment. Temple, before returning to the Hague in 1674, had an interview with Charles. He went, as he expresses it, to the bottom of the matter, showing how difficult, if not impossible, it was to set up here the same religion and government that was in France, and assuring him that even those who were indifferent to religion would not consent to have it changed by force of an army.1 Charles relinquished his design, and recalled the warning which his father on the scaffold had intended to impress on his son, as well as on Juxon, by the famous word “Remember,”—that if ever he came to the crown, he should so govern his subjects as not to force them to extremities. He declared that he was too old to go abroad again, and that he left that to his brother, if he had a mind to try it. For the ten remaining years of that reign, James took the lead in all the schemes for the restoration of the Church. It was of him that Coleman wrote in his fatal letter to La Chaise: “If he could gain any considerable new addition of power, all would come over to him as the only centre of our government, and nobody could contend with him further. Then would Catholicks be at ease, and His Most Christian Majesty’s interest secured with us in England, beyond all apprehensions whatsoever.” But the most Christian king, as he had prevented the declaration of religion before the Dutch war, endeavoured afterwards to have the design abandoned. He found that the English Parliament was not averse to the French alliance provided it was not used for the promotion of Popery and arbitrary power in England; and Lewis was quite willing that religion should be sacrificed in order to save his popularity with the English Protestants. Finding that the supposed connection of the king’s conversion with the French alliance had brought suspicion on his ambassador, he replaced him by Ruvigny, who was a Calvinist. The new laws which were made against the Catholics, for the purpose of diverting suspicion, received his approbation; and he acted upon the hint given him by Bristol, that the House of Commons would be favourable to the French alliance if the belief in the existence of the secret treaty for the restoration of Catholicism could be removed. That unhappy scheme defiled all that it touched, and neither those who shared in it nor those who condemned it came out of the transaction with honour.
If in the seventeenth century, which achieved so much for civil liberty, freedom of conscience was not established in England, the fault lay with the oppressed communities as much as with the crown or the dominant church. The Catholics and the Protestant sects were alike intolerant. The latter deserved what they received, and justified by their theories and their acts the penal laws by which they suffered. They were ready to do to others what was done to them. No religious party in the country admitted the right of minorities to the protection of the law. Religious liberty grew up in England as the fruit of civil liberty, of which it is a part, and in conjunction with which it has yet much way to make. But if the Protestants were not sincere in arguing for toleration, the Catholics were not honest in the means by which they endeavoured to obtain it. They sought as a concession that which was a right; they wished for privilege instead of liberty; and they defended an exception and not a principle. The Catholics of that age had degenerated from the old mediæval spirit, which stood by the right and respected the law, but did not stoop to power. In the great constitutional struggle they disregarded the impending absolutism and the outraged laws, and gave to the royal cause, when it was most in fault, a support which, by prolonging the contest, drove the parliamentary opposition into lawless extremes, and postponed for half a century the establishment of freedom. After the Restoration they again trusted their interests to the favour of the court, and were willing to purchase advantages for their religion by political guilt, and to gain private ends at the price of a common servitude. That criminal and short-sighted policy brought quick retribution upon them, and explains how the party which saved the constitution in 1688 imposed disabilities on those who, by similar inconsistency, had been the declared adversaries of that freedom which their church had helped to institute.
[1 ]The Home and Foreign Review, July 1862.
[1 ] Halifax, Character of Charles II., p. 11.
[1 ] Clarendon, History of the Rebellion, x. 8.
[2 ]Clarendon Papers, ii. 239.
[3 ]History, xiii. 131.
[4 ]Mémoires de Mademoiselle, 57, ed. Michaud.
[1 ]Clarendon, xvi. 74.
[2 ] Lister, Life of Clarendon, i. 284. He would not allow the prince to attend the service of the French Calvinists at Charenton (History, xiii. 133).
[3 ] The testimony of Ormond and Burnet, and the worthless reports to the same effect in Kennet and Echard, are collected in the Biographia Britannica, ii. 177d, 2nd ed.
[1 ] Carte’s Collection, ii. 264.
[2 ]Vie de M. Olier, ii. 489, from the French Archives.
[3 ] Carte, ii. 102.
[1 ]Memoirs, p. 131.
[2 ] Charles is reported to have said that though many persons had discoursed with him on religion, none had anected him so much as Olier (Vie de M. Olier. ii. 490).
[1 ]Mémoires de Guy Joly, p. 140, ed. Michaud.
[2 ] “Aujourd’hui la reine a reçu une lettre du roy son fils, où il parle positivement, et dit qu’après avoir considéré toutes les raisons de son mariage, il se conformoit à son sentiment pour vostre nièce, en vue du grand dessein à quoi il estoit porté de jour en jour avec plus de faveur” (Lionne to Mazarin, 7th July 1660, in Champollion, Complément des Mémoires de Retz, p. 589, ed. Michaud).
[1 ] Dod, Church History of England, iii. 239.
[2 ]Mémoires de Guy Joly, p. 149.
[3 ] Italian States, Bundle No. 24.
[1 ] Lingard, ix. 35.
[1 ] Moréri, Dictionnaire Historique, ix. 597; his epitaph in Douglas, Peerage of Scotland, ii. 101.
[1 ] Oblatio ex parte Caroli II. Magnae Brittanniae Regis pro optatissima trium suorum Regnorum Angliae, Scotiae et Hiberniae cum Sede Apostolica Romana reunione.
[1 ] R. Augier to the Speaker, in Cary, Memorials of the Civil War, i. 7.
[2 ] Le Quesne, Constitutional History of Jersey, p. 325.
[1 ] Clarke, Life of James II., i. 441.
[2 ] We know, from the account of his death, that none of the Portuguese chaplains of the queen could speak either English or French.
[1 ]Constitutional History, ii. 387.
[1 ] The papers from which this account is given are in the State Paper Office, “Italian States,” Bundle 32; Letters of Kent, March 30, 1669, June 16, August 31, and September 7; News Letters, or Gazzette di Roma, of March 23, April 6, April 13, April 20, June 11, September 7. The will is in the Domestic Papers, Bundle for August 1669.
[1 ] Harris, Life of Charles II., ii. 391.
[1 ]Historiettes de Tallemant des Reaux, vii. 293.
[1 ] Mignet, Négociations relatives à la Succession d’Espagne, iii. 232.
[1 ] Welwood’s Memoirs, p. 146.
[1 ] Salvandy, Histoire de Jeon Sobieski, ii. 97.
[1 ] I subjoin a list of the documents for which I am indebted to Father Boero. They are manifestly too long to be published in extenso in a Review.
1. Lettre de la Reine Mère (Henrietta) au Card, Orsini. De Londres, October 30, 1662.
2. Lettre de la Reine Catherine au même. De Londres, October 25, 1662.
3. Voto in favore della promozione al Cardinalato del Signor d’Aubigny.
4. Favori e benefizi fatti ai cattolici d’ Inghilterra dal Re presente (in sixteen articles).
5. Bellings to Father Thomas Courtenay, October 22, 1662.
6. Lettera dal Card. Orsini al Card. Sforza Pallavicino. 24 gennaio 1663.
7. Oblatio ex parte Caroli II. Magnae Britanniae Regis pro optatissima trium suorum regnorum Angliae, Scotiae et Hiberniae cum Sede Apostolica Romana reunione.
8. Certificate of Charles II. in favour of Sieur James Stuart, his natural son.
9. Another certificate of the king to the same.
10. Certificate of Christine Queen of Sweden concerning the same, on his conversion at Hamburg.
11. Letter of Charles II. to the General of the Jesuits, Oliva, at Rome. Whitehall, August 3, 1668.
12. Letter of Charles II. to his son James Stuart at Rome. Whitehall, August 4, 1668.
13. Letter of Charles II. to Oliva, General of the Jesuits, at Rome. Whitehall, August 29, 1668.
14. Letter of the same to the same, without date.
15. Reply of Oliva to the king’s three letters. Livorno, October 14, 1668.
16. Certificate of Charles that he will pay the expenses of his son’s voyage. November 18, 1668.
17. Letter of Charles to Oliva. Whitehall, November 18, 1668.
18 and 19. Two Memoirs written by Charles II. on the Catholic religion.
[1 ] See the Despatches of the French ambassadors Colbert and Ruvigny, in Mignet, iii. 10 sq., and iv. 42 sq.
[2 ] Clarke, i. 442.
[1 ] “Il m’a paru que l’affaire de religion étant ce qui tient le premier lieu dans l’esprit de M. le Comte d’Arondel, il n’y a que le retardement de la déclaration qui le touche; et comme il croit que la guerre contre les Hollandais produiroit cet effet-là, c’est la seule raison pour laquelle il s’y oppose” (Turenne to Ruvigny: Mémoires de Turenne, i. 669).
[2 ] Morrice, Life of Orrery, p. 86.
[1 ]Mémoires de Gourville, p. 566, ed. Michaud.
[2 ]Mémoires de Cosnac, i. 383.
[1 ]Ibid. ii. 81. “Retardabant eum voluptates blandissimae dominae, et quacdam iners et pene somniculosa natura, quam tamen plura animi ingeniique bona comitabantur. Huic quidem stimulos admovisse suspicor Clementem per occultos homines” (Fabroni, Vitae Ilalorum, ii. 107).
[2 ] State Paper Office, “Italian States,” Letters of Kent, June 29, July 6, August 10, 1669.
[1 ] Courtenay, Memoirs of Sir W. Temple, i. 425.