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recollections of the Electress, and of George her son.
Elizabeth Charlotte was at Osnaburg when George was born (1660). She narrowly escaped a whipping for being in the way on that auspicious day. She seems not to have liked little George, nor George grown up ; and represents him as odiously hard, cold, and silent. Silent he may have been : not a jolly prince like his father before him, but a prudent, quiet, selfish potentate, going his own way, managing his own affairs, and understanding his own interests remarkably well.
In his father's lifetime, and at the head of the Hanover forces of 8,000 or 10,000 men, George served the Emperor, on the Danube against Turks, at the siege of Vienna, in Italy, and on the Rhine. When he succeeded to the Electorate, he handled its affairs with great prudence and dexterity. He was very much liked by his people of Hanover. He did not show. his feelings much, but he cried heartily on leaving them; as they used for joy when he came back. He showed an uncommon prudence and coolness of behaviour when he came into his kingdom ; exhibiting no elation ; reasonably doubtful whether he should not be turned out some day; looking upon himself only as a lodger, and making the most of his brief tenure of St. James's and Hampton Court; plundering, it is true, somewhat, and dividing amongst his German followers ; but what could be expected of a sovereign who at home could sell his subjects at so many ducats per head, and make no scruple in so disposing of them? I fancy a considerable shrewdness, prudence, and even moderation in his ways. The German Protestant was a cheaper, and better, and kinder king than the Catholic Stuart in whose chair he sat, and so far loyal to England, that he let England govern herself.
Having these lectures in view, I made it my business to visit that ugly cradle in which our Georges were nursed. The old town of Hanover must look still pretty much as in the time when George Louis left it. The gardens and pavilions of Herrenhausen are scarce changed since the day when the stout old Electress Sophia fell down in her last walk there, preceding but by a few weeks to the tomb James II.'s daughter, whose death made way for the Brunswick Stuarts in England.
The two first royal Georges, and their father, Ernest Augustus, had quite royal notions regarding marriage; and Louis XIV. and Charles II. scarce distinguished themselves more at Versailles or St. James's, than these German sultans in their little city on the banks of the Leine. You may see at Herrenhausen the very rustic theatre in which the Platens danced and performed masques, and sang before the Elector and his sons. There are the very fauns and dryads of stone still glimmering through the branches, still grinning and piping their ditties of no tone, as in the days when painted nymphs hung garlands round them; appeared under their leafy arcades with gilt crooks, guiding rams with gilt horns ; descended from “ machines " in the guise of Diana or Minerva ; and delivered immense allegorical compliments to the princes returned home from the campaign.
That was a curious state of morals and politics in Europe; a queer consequence of the triumph of the monarchical principle. Feudalism was beaten down. The nobility, in its quarrels with the crown, had pretty well succumbed, and the monarch was all in all. He became almost divine : the proudest and most ancient gentry of the land did menial service for him. Who should carry Louis XIV.'s candle when he went to bed? what prince of the blood should hold the king's shirt when his Most Christian Majesty changed that garment?—the French memoirs of the seventeenth century are full of such details and squabbles. The tradition is not yet extinct in Europe. Any of you who were present, as myriads were, at that splendid pageant, the opening of our Crystal Palace in London, must have seen two noble lords, great officers of the household, with ancient pedigrees, with embroidered coats, and stars on their breasts and wands in their hands, walking backwards for near the space of a mile, while the royal procession made its progress. Shall we wonder -shall we be angry-shall we laugh at these old-world ceremonies ? View them as you will, according to your mood ; and with scorn or with respect, or with anger and sorrow, as your temper leads you. Up goes Gesler's hat upon the pole. Salute that symbol of sovereignty with heartfelt awe ; or with a sulky shrug of acquiescence, or with a grinning obeisance; or with a stout rebellious No-clap your own beaver down on your pate, and refuse to doff it to that spangled velvet and flaunting feather. I make no comment upon the spectators' behaviour; all I say is, that Gesler's cap is still up in the market-place of Europe, and not a few folks are still kneeling to it.
Put clumsy, high Dutch statues in place of the marbles of Versailles : fancy Herrenhausen waterworks in place of those of Marly: spread the tables with Schweinskopf, Specksuppe, Leberkuchen, and the like delicacies, in place of the French cuisine; and fancy Frau von Kielmansegge dancing with Count Kammerjunker Quirini, or singing French songs with the most awful German accent: imagine a coarse Versailles, and we have a Hanover before us. “I am now got into the region of beauty;" writes Mary Wortley, from Hanover in 1716; “all the women have literally rosy cheeks, snowy foreheads and necks, jet eye-brows, to which may generally be added coal-black hair. These perfections never leave them to the day of their death, and have a very fine effect by candle-light; but I could wish they were handsome with a little variety. They resemble one another as Mrs. Salmon's Court of Great Britain, and are in as much danger of melting away by too nearly approaching the fire." The sly Mary Wortley saw this painted seraglio of the first George at Hanover, the year after his accession to the British throne. There were great doings and feasts there. Here Lady Mary saw George II.
"I can tell you, without flattery or partiality," she says, "that our young prince has all the accomplishments that it is possible to have at his age, with an air of sprightliness and understanding, and a something so very engaging in his behaviour that needs not the advantage of his rank to appear charming." I find elsewhere similar panegyrics upon Frederick Prince of Wales, George II.'s son; and upon George III., of course, and upon George IV. in an eminent degree. It was the rule to be dazzled by princes, and people's eyes winked quite honestly at that royal radiance.
The Electoral Court of Hanover was numerous—pretty well paid, as times went; above all, paid with a regularity which few other European courts could boast of. Perhaps you will be amused to know how the Electoral Court was composed. There were the princes of the house in the first class ; in the second, the single field-marshal of the army (the contingent was 18,000, Pöllnitz says, and the Elector had other 14,000 troops in his pay). Then follow, in due order, the authorities civil and military, the working privy councillors, the generals of cavalry and infantry, in the third class; the high chamberlain, high marshals of the court, high masters of the horse, the major-generals of cavalry and infantry, in the fourth class; down to the majors, the hofjunkers or pages, the secretaries or assessors, of the tenth class, of whom all were noble.
We find the master of the horse had 1,090 thalers of pay; the high chamberlain, 2,000-a thaler being about three shillings of our money. There were two chamberlains, and one for the Princess ; five gentlemen of the chamber, and five gentlemen ushers; eleven pages and personages to educate these young noblemen-such as a governor, a preceptor, a fecht-meister, or fencing master, and a dancing ditto, this latter with a handsome salary of 400 thalers. There were three body and court physicians, with 800 and 500 thalers; a court barber, 600 thalers; a court organist; two musikanten; four French fiddlers; twelve trumpeters, and a bugler; so that there was plenty of music, profane and pious, in Hanover. There were ten chamber waiters, and twenty-four lacqueys in livery; a maîtred'hôtel, and attendants of the kitchen; a French cook; a body cook ; ten cooks; six cooks'assistants; two Braten masters, or masters of the roast-(one fancies enormous spits turning slowly, and the honest masters of the roast beladling the dripping); a pastry-baker; a pie-baker; and finally, three scullions, at the modest remuneration of eleven thalers. In the sugar-chamber there were four pastrycooks (for the ladies, no doubt); seven officers in the wine and beer cellars ; four bread-bakers; and five men in the plate-room. There were 600 horses in the Serene stables—no less than twenty teams of princely carriage horses, eight to a team ; sixteen coachmen ; fourteen postilions; nineteen ostlers; thirteen helps, besides smiths, carriagemasters, horse-doctors, and other attendants of the stable. The female attendants were not so numerous : I grieve to find but a dozen or fourteen of them about the Electoral premises, and only two washerwomen for all the Court. These functionaries had not so much to do as in the present age. I own to finding a pleasure in these small-beer chronicles. I like to people the old world, with its every-day figures and inhabitants—not so much with heroes fighting immense battles and inspiring repulsed battalions to engage; or statesmen locked up in darkling cabinets and meditating ponderous laws or dire conspiracies—as with people occupied with their everyday work or pleasure : my lord and lady hunting in the forest, or dancing in the Court, or bowing to their Serene Highnesses as they pass in to dinner; John Cook and his procession bringing the meal from the kitchen; the jolly butlers bearing in the flagons from the cellar; the stout coachman driving the ponderous gilt waggon, with eight cream-coloured horses in housings of scarlet velvet and morocco leather; a postilion on the leaders, and a pair or a halfdozen of running footmen scudding along by the side of the vehicle, with conical caps, long silver-headed maces, which they poised as they ran, and splendid jackets laced all over with silver and gold. I fancy the citizens' wives and their daughters looking out from the balconies; and the burghers over their beer and mumm, rising up, cap in hand, as the cavalcade passes through the town with torch-bearers, trumpeters blowing their lusty cheeks out, and squadrons of jack-booted lifeguardsmen, girt with shining cuirasses, and bestriding thundering chargers, escorting his Highness's coach from Hanover to Herrenhausen ; or halting, mayhap, at Madame Platen's country house of Monplaisir, which lies half-way between the summer-palace and the Residenz,