CHAPTER XI. CHARACTER AND REIGN

Some of the traits of character for which King Charles II. has been most noted among mankind are well illustrated by his management of the affair of Lady Castlemaine, when the queen arrived at her new home in Hampton Court. Hampton Court is a very spacious and beautiful palace on the banks of the Thames, some miles above London, splendidly built, and very pleasantly situated at a graceful bend of the river. It was magnificently fitted up and furnished for Catharine's reception. Her suite of apartments were supplied and adorned in the most sumptuous manner. Her bed, which was a present to Charles, at the time of his restoration, from the States of Holland, was said to have cost, with all the appurtenances, a sum equal to between thirty and forty thousand dollars. The hangings were an embroidery of silver on crimson velvet. The other articles of furniture in the apartment, the mirrors, the richly inlaid cabinets, the toilet service of massive gold, the canopies, the carved chairs, the curtains, the tapestries, and the paintings, corresponded in magnificence with the bed, so that Catharine, when she was introduced to the scene, felt that she had attained to the very summit of human grandeur.

For a few weeks Catharine neither saw nor heard any thing of Lady Castlemaine. She was confined to her house at the time by the care of an infant, born a few days after the arrival of the queen. Her husband had the child baptized soon after its birth as his son and heir; but the mother soon afterward had it baptized again as the son of the king, Charles himself standing sponsor on the occasion. A violent quarrel followed between Lady Castlemaine and her husband. She left the house, taking with her all her servants and attendants, and all the plate and other valuables which she could carry away. The husband, overwhelmed with wretchedness and shame, abandoned every thing, and went to France, in voluntary exile. His wife then came and took up her residence at Richmond, which is not far from Hampton Court, so as to be near the king. In all these proceedings the king himself gave her his continued countenance, encouragement, and aid.

Although Catharine, in the confiding simplicity of her character, had fully believed, in coming to London, that Charles would be to her a true and faithful husband, still she had heard the name of Lady Castlemaine before she left Lisbon. Her mother had once briefly alluded to the subject, and gave her a warning, charging her to remember the name, and to be on her guard against the lady herself, and never to tolerate her in her presence on any pretext. Things were in this state, when, one day, after Catharine had been about six weeks in her new home, Charles brought in a list of ladies whom he proposed that she should make the ladies of her household. Catharine took the list, and there, to her surprise and indignation, she saw the dreaded name of Lady Castlemaine at the head of it.

Very much agitated, she began to prick out the name, and to declare that she could not listen to any such proposition. Charles was angry, and remonstrated. She persisted, and said that he must either yield to her in that point, or send her back to Lisbon. Charles was determined to have his way, and Catharine was overwhelmed with anguish and grief. This lasted two days, when Charles made his peace with his wife by solemnly promising to give up Lady Castlemaine, and to have from that time forward nothing more to do with her.

King Charles II. has always been famed for his good nature. This was a specimen of it. He never liked to quarrel with any body, and was always ready to give up his point, in appearance and form at least, for the sake of peace and good humor. Accordingly, when he found how immovably averse his wife was to having Lady Castlemaine for an inmate of her family, instead of declaring that she must and should submit to his will, he gave up himself, and said that he would think no more about it, without, however, having the remotest idea of keeping his word. He was only intending, since he found the resistance so decided on this side of the citadel, to try to find some other approach.

Accordingly, a short time after this, one evening when the queen was holding a sort of levee in a brilliant saloon, surrounded by her Portuguese ladies, and receiving English ladies, as they were one after another presented to her by the king, the company were astonished at seeing Lady Castlemaine appear with the rest, and, as she advanced, the king presented her to the queen. To the surprise of every one, Catharine received her as graciously as the rest, and gave her her hand. The fact was, that Catharine, not being familiar with the sound and pronunciation of English words, had not understood the name. One of the Portuguese ladies who stood near her whispered to inquire if she knew that that was Lady Castlemaine. Catharine was stunned and staggered by the words as by a blow. The blood gushed from her nose, she fell over into the arms of her attendants in a fainting fit, and was borne out of the room.

There followed, after this scene, a long and dreadful quarrel. Charles accused his wife of unreasonable and foolish jealousy, and of putting a public insult upon one of the ladies of his court, whom she was bound to treat with civility and respect, since he chose to have it so. She, on the other hand, declared that he was cruel and tyrannical in making such demands upon her, and that she would go back to Portugal rather than submit to such an intolerable indignity. She criminated Charles, and Charles recriminated and threatened her, and for one night the palace was filled with the noise and uproar of the quarrel. The ladies and gentlemen of the household were very glad, they said, that they were not in London, where there would have been so many more witnesses of the scene.