Page images
PDF
EPUB

even in those very easy-going days, for its inherent and unblushing licentiousness, and the favour and friendship which Catherine II. extended to the Princess was fraught with peril to a young, handsome, and inexperienced woman. At this distance of time it is impossible to decide as to the guilt or innocence of this unfortunate Princess, the more so as scarcely any reliable information can be obtained on this point. It is said by some writers that she occasioned the deepest shame and disgrace to her husband and her family ; whilst others declare that, though imprudent and thoughtless, she nevertheless remained innocent at heart. However this may be, it is certain that the Prince treated his wife at this time with indifference, if not neglect, and that serious differences had arisen between them. At length the Duke of Brunswick wrote to his son-in-law, advising him to leave Russia without delay, and to rescue his consort from an atmosphere of so much danger. Frederick at once acted on this advice, and, relinquishing his appointment, prepared to quit Russia ; but the Princess refused peremptorily to accompany him. She declared her intention of remaining at St. Petersburg under the protection of the Empress; and finding all remonstrance unavailing, Frederick was compelled to leave, followed only by his children.

A year elapsed, and then the news reached the Duke of Brunswick that his daughter had died suddenly. No details were given, no dates ; nothing but the dry, curt, official announcement. Heartbroken by the tidings, the Duke wrote at once to Catherine, desiring to have some farther information on the subject, and also requesting that the body of the ill-fated Princess might be given up to him ; but no answer was ever vouchsafed to this letter. The imperial autocrat of all the Russias could afford to turn a deaf ear to the threats and entreaties of a petty prince; whilst one more deed of treachery and bloodshed would not trouble the conscience of the woman who had planned and instigated the murder of her unfortunate husband.

It appears that, for a short time, the Princess of Würtemberg shone at court as one of Catherine's chief favourites, flattered, admired, and triumphant; but suddenly she was arrested one night, separated from her German attendants, and transported to the castle of Lhode, situate about two hundred miles from St. Petersburg. From that time Augusta of Brunswick was never seen alive; but the manner of her death remains a profound mystery. A few months later, it was announced that the Princess of Würtemberg had died from the breaking of a blood-vessel, but no farther details were given, and no inconvenient questions asked.

It has been said that jealousy of the Princess's superior beauty and youth aroused the enmity of Catherine II., and that she adopted this plan to rid herself of a dangerous rival. But the motive of this dark tragedy remains a matter for speculation, and no clue to the real fate of Augusta of Brunswick has ever been obtained. Ten years rolled away, and Frederick of Würtemberg again sought a bride to share his fortunes.

This time he chose an English Princess, and, strange to say, the cousin-german of his first wife — Charlotte Augusta Matilda, eldest daughter of George III. It is well known that the King refused to sanction this alliance, until he received from the lips of his future son-in-law an explicit denial of his being in any way cognisant of the murder of his unhappy wife. The interview was strictly private, but the King declared subsequently that the result was satisfactory, and the marriage took place in 1797 at the chapel royal, St. James's. But it has been said that the consent was not cordially given, and it was noticed that Frederick of Würtemberg never revisited England.

Augusta of Brunswick was only in her twenty-fourth year at the time of her mysterious death. A few years later her family were overwhelmed by disaster and adversity, not one member escaping.

Her father perished at the battle of Jena, despoiled of his hereditary possessions ; her mother died in exile and poverty ; her brother, ‘ Brunswick's fated chieftain,' was killed at Waterloo ; whilst the shame and degradation that clouded the life of her only sister, Queen Caroline, is still fresh, and but too well remembered.

Of the two children borne by Augusta of Brunswick, the eldest, a son, succeeded his father as King of Würtemberg, and died recently ; whilst the daughter Catherine, who inherited her unhappy mother's beauty and amiability, became the wife of Jerome Buonaparte, King of Westphalia. Renowned for her conjugal virtues, this excellent princess died before she attained middle age, leaving one son, the Prince Napoleon Buonaparte, and a daughter, the Princess Mathilde Demidoff.

TO JULIA SWINGING

What gleams of white are those—now swift, now slow

Among the avenue's cool shadows yonder ?
A cloud of butterflies, that to and fro

Delight to wander ?
The interweaving boughs are thick with leaves,

Whose screen all closer observation fences;
And every fleeting glimpse the more deceives

My puzzled senses.
Is it some rare bird flitting through the trees-

An angel o'er the earth its bright course winging-
A merry fay? 'Tis all, yet none of these :

'Tis Julia swinging! 0, sweet coquette ! the swing's a fitting type

Of those coy arts and wanton wiles that won me;
For now you fly to me, in beauty ripe,

And now you shun me.
Ah, why thus torture me with fleeting charms,

That set my heart tumultuously beating-
Advancing thus almost into my arms,

And then retreating ?
You seem to rush to me— maddening bliss !-

As if to mingle into one our two souls ;
And after all but offer me to kiss

Your tiny shoe-soles.
Now flinging all your beauty at me, now

Withdrawing it as quickly, you but fool me;
Just as your white robe, fluttering, fans my brow,

But doesn't cool me.
Of earth am I, alas, and you're of sky;

I feel it while you fly so far above me.
When I so lowly am, and you're so high,

How can you love me?
But, after all, where is your need of swings ?

First give me that white rosebud as a relic,
And then renounce the cheat, reveal your wings,
And be angelic!

TOM HOOD.

[graphic][ocr errors][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »