Page images
PDF
EPUB

CHAP. European Prince, since the age of Charlemagne LXIX. had ever attained. The monarch, most capable of

opposing his progress, was entirely engaged in his 1684.

interests; and the Turks, invited by the mal. contents of Hungary, were preparing to invade the Emperor, and to disable that Prince from making head against the progress of the French power. Lewis may even be accused of oversight, in not making sufficient advantage of such favourable opportunities, which he was never afterwards able to recall. But that monarch, though more governed by motives of ambition than by those of justice or moderation, was still more actuated by the suggestions of vanity. He contented himself with insulting and domineering over all the Princes and free states of Europe; and he thereby provoked their resentment without subduing their power.

While every one, who approached his person, and behaved with submission to his authority, was treated with the highest politeness ; all the neighbouring potentates had successively felt the effects of his haughty imperious disposition. And by indulging his poets, orators, and courtiers, in their flatteries, and in their prognostications of universal empire, he conveyed faster, than by the prospect of his power alone, the apprehension of general conquest and

subjection. 1685.

The French greatness never, during his whole reign, inspired Charles with any apprehensions; and Clifford, it is said, one of his most favoured mi. nisters, went so far as to affirm, that it were better for the King to be viceroy under a great and generous monarch, than a slave to five hundred of his own insolent subjects. The ambition, therefore, and uncontrolled power of Lewis were no diminution of Charles's happiness; and in other respects his condition seemed at present more eligible than it had ever been since his restoration.

A mighty A mighty faction, which had shaken his throne, CHAP. and menaced his family, was totally subdued ; and LXIX. by their precipitate indiscretion had exposed them

1685 selves both to the rigour of the laws and to public hatred. He had recovered his former popularity in the nation; and what probably pleased him more than having a compliant parliament, he was enabled to govern altogether without one. But it is certain that the King, amidst all these promising circumstances, was not happy or satisfied. Whether he found himself exposed to difficulties for want of money, or dreaded a recoil of the popular humour from the present arbitrary measures, is uncertain. Perhaps the violent, imprudent temper of the Duke, by pushing Charles upon dangerous attempts, gave him apprehension and uneasiness. He was overheard one day to say, in opposing some of the Duke's hasty counsels, “ Brother, I am too old to

go again to my travels : You may, if you choose « it." Whatever was the cause of the King's disa satisfaction, it seems probable, that he was meditating some change of measures, and had formed a new plan of administration. He was determined, it is thought, to send the Duke to Scotland, to recal Monmouth, to summon a parliament, to dismiss ail his unpopular ministers, and to throw him. self entirely on the good-will and affections of his subjects *. Amidst these truly wise and virtuous King's designs, he was seized with a sudden fit, which şickness, resembled an apoplexy; and though he was recovered from it by bleeding, he languished only for a few days, and then expired, in the fifty-fifth and death, year of his age, and twenty-fifth of his reign. 6th Feb. He was so happy in a good constitution of body, and had ever been so remarkably careful of his

[ocr errors]

* King James's Memoirs confirm this rumour, as also D'Avaux's Negotiations, 14 Dec. 1684VOL. VIII.

P

health,

are full.

CHAP. health, that his death struck as great a surprise LXIX. into his subjects, as if he had been in the flower

of his youth. And their great concern for him, 1685.

owing to their affection for his person, as well as their dread of his successor, very naturally, when joined to the critical time of his death, begat the suspicion of poison. All circumstances however considered, this suspicion must be allowed to vanish ; like many others, of which all histories

DURING the few days of the King's illness, clergymen of the church of England attended him ; but he discovered a total indifference towards their devotions and exhortations. Catholic priests were brought, and he received the sacrament from them, accompanied with the other rites of the Romish church. Two papers were found in his cabinet, written with his own hand, and containing arguments in favour of that communion. The Duke had the imprudence immediately to publish these papers, and thereby both. confirmed all the reproaches of those who had been the greatest enemies to his brother's measures, and afforded to the world, a specimen of his own

bigotry, and cha. If we survey the character of Charles II. in racter. the different lights which it will admit of, it

will appear various, and give rise to different and even opposite sentiments. When considered as a companion, he appears as the most amiable and engaging of men; and indeed, in this view, his deportment must be allowed altogether unexcep: tionable. His love of raillery was so tempered with good breeding, that it was never offensive : His propensity to satire was so checked with discretion, that his friends neyer dreaded their be. coming the object of it: His wit, to use the expression of one who knew him well, and who was himself a good judge”, could not be said so much CHAP. to be very refined or elevated, qualities apt to LXIX. beget jealousy and apprehension in company, as,

himself

1685. to be a plain, gaining, well-bred, recommending kind of wit. And though perhaps he talked more than strict rules of behaviour might permit, men were so pleased with the affable, communicative deportment of the monarch, that they always went away contented both with him and with themselves. This indeed is the most shining part of the King's character; and he seems to have been sensible of it : For he was fond of dropping the formality of state, and of relapsing every moment into the companion.

In the duties of private life, his conduct, though not free from exception, was, in the main, laud. able. He was an easy, generous lover, a civil, obliging husband, a friendly brother, an indulgent father, and a good-natured master. The voluntary friendships, however, which this Prince contracted, nay, even his sense of gratitude, were feeble; and he never attached himself to any of his ministers or courtiers with a sincere affection. He believed them to have no motive in serving him but self-interest ; and he was still ready, in his turn, to sacrifice them to present ease or convenience.

WITH a detail of his private character we must set bounds to our panegyricon Charles. . The other parts of his conduct may admit of some apology, but can deserve small applause. He was indeed so much fitted for private life, preferably to public, that he even possessed order, frugality, and ceconomy, in the former; was profuse, thoughtless, and negligent in the latter. When we consider him as a sovereign, his character, though not

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

CHAP, altogether destitute of virtue, was in the main dari LXIX. gerous to his people, and dishonourable to himself.

Negligent of the interests of the nation, careless 1685

of its glory, averse to its religion, jealous of its liberty, lavish of its treasure, sparing only of its blood; he exposed it by his measures, though he ever appeared but in sport, to the danger of a furious civil war, and even to the ruin and ignominy of a foreign conquest. Yet may all these enormities, if fairly and candidly examined, be imputed, in a great measure, to the indolence of his temper : A fault which, however unfortunate in a monarch, it is impossible for us to regard with great severity.

IT has been remarked' of Charles, that he never said a foolish thing nor ever did a wise one: A censure which, though too far carried, seems to have some foundation in his character and deportment. When the King was informed of this saying, he observed, that the matter was easily accounted for : For that his discourse was his own, his actions were the ministry's. If we reflect on the appetite for power

inherent in human nature, and add to it the King's education in foreign countries, and among the cavaliers, a party which would naturally exaggerate the late usurpations of popular assemblies upon

the rights of monarchy; it is not surprising, that civil liberty should not find in him a very zealous patron. Harassed with domestic faction, weary of calumnies and complaints, oppressed with debts, straitened in his revenue, he sought, though with feeble efforts, for a form of government, more simple in its structure and more easy in its management.

But his attachment to France, after all the pains which we have taken, by inquiry and conjecture, to fathom it, contains still something, it must be confessed, mysterious and inexplicable. The hopes of rendering himself absolute by Lewis's assistance seem

« PreviousContinue »