Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869)/Chapter 35




LORD LINNÆUS CLANCHARLIE had not always been old and proscribed; he had had his period of youth and passion. We know from Harrison and Pride that Cromwell, when young, loved women and pleasure,—a taste which generally (another aspect of the "woman question") betrays a seditious man. Distrust the loosely clasped girdle (Male præcinctum juvenem cavete). Lord Clancharlie, like Cromwell, had had his wild hours and his irregularities. He was known to have had a natural child, a son. This son was born in England in the last days of the republic, just as his father was going into exile; hence he had never seen his father. This illegitimate son of Lord Clancharlie had grown up as page at the court of Charles II. He was styled Lord David Dirry-Moir: he was a lord by courtesy, his mother being a woman of quality.

The mother, while Lord Clancharlie was playing the owl in Switzerland, made up her mind, being a beauty, to give up sulking, and was forgiven for that Goth her first lover, by one who was undeniably a polished gentleman, and at the same time a royalist,—no less a person, in fact, than the king himself. She had been the mistress of Charles II. but a short time, sufficiently long, however, to have made his Majesty (who was delighted to have won so pretty a woman from the republic) bestow on the little Lord David, the son of his divinity, the office of keeper of the stick, — which made that young man, boarded at the king's expense, by a natural revulsion of feeling an ardent adherent of the Stuarts. Lord David was for some time one of the hundred and seventy sword-bearers; afterwards, entering the corps of pensioners, he became one of the forty who bear the gilded halberd. He had, besides being one of the noble company instituted by Henry VIII. as a body-guard, the privilege of placing the dishes on the king's table. Thus it was that while his father was growing grey in exile, Lord David was prospering under Charles II. After which he prospered under James II. The king is dead: Long live the king! It is the non deficit alter, aureus.

It was on the accession of the Duke of York that the young man obtained permission to call himself David Lord Dirry-Moir, from an estate which he inherited from his mother (who had just died) in that great forest of Scotland, where lives the krag, a bird which scoops out a nest with its beak in the trunk of the oak.


James II. was a king, and pretended to be a great general. He loved to surround himself with young officers. He showed himself frequently in public on horseback, in a helmet and cuirass, with a huge projecting wig hanging below the helmet and over the cuirass,—a sort of equestrian statue of imbecile war. He took a fancy to young Lord David; he liked the royalist for being the son of a republican. A renegade father does not injure the foundation of a court fortune. The king made Lord David gentleman of the bedchamber, at a salary of a thousand a year. It was a fine promotion. A gentleman of the bedchamber sleeps near the king every night, on a bed which is made up for him. There are twelve gentlemen, who relieve one another.

Lord David, while he held that post, was also head of the king's granary, giving out corn for the horses and receiving a salary of £260, Under him were the five coachmen of the king, the five postilions of the king, the five grooms of the king, the twelve footmen of the king, and the four chair-bearers of the king. He had the management of the race-horses which the king kept at Newmarket, and which cost his Majesty £600 a year. He worked his will on the king's wardrobe, from which the knights of the garter are furnished with their robes of ceremony. The usher of the black rod bowed down to the earth before him. That usher, under James II., was the Chevalier Duppa. Mr. Baker, who was clerk of the crown, and Mr. Brown, who was clerk of the Parliament, also bowed low before Lord David. The court of England, which is magnificent, is a model of hospitality. Lord David presided, as one of the twelve, at banquets and receptions. He had the glory of standing behind the king on offertory days, when the king gives to the church the golden byzantium; on collar-days, when the king wears the collar of his order; on communion days, when no one takes the sacrament except the king and the princes. It was he who, on Holy Thursday, introduced into his Majesty's presence the twelve poor men to whom the king gives as many silver pence as he is years old, and as many shillings as the years of his reign. The duty devolved on him, when the king was ill, to call to the assistance of his Majesty the two grooms of the almonry, who are priests, and to prevent the approach of doctors without permission from the council of State. Besides, he was lieutenant-colonel of the Scotch Regiment of Guards, the one which plays the Scottish march. As such, he made several campaigns, and with glory; for he was a gallant soldier. He was a brave lord, well-made, handsome, generous, and majestic in look and in manner. His person was like his quality. He was tall in stature, as well as exalted in birth. At one time he stood a chance of being made groom of the stole, which would have given him the privilege of putting the king's shirt on his Majesty: but to hold that office it was necessary to be either prince or peer. Now, to create a peer is a serious thing, inasmuch as it is first necessary to create a peerage; and that makes many people jealous. It is a favour,—but a favour that gains the king one friend and one hundred enemies, without taking into account that the one friend becomes ungrateful. James II. was not inclined to create peerages, but he transferred them freely. The transfer of a peerage produces no sensation; it is simply the continuation of a name. The friendly monarch had no objection to raising Lord David Dirry-Moir to the upper house, provided he could do so by means of a substituted peerage. Nothing would have pleased his Majesty better than to transform Lord David Dirry-Moir lord by courtesy into a lord by right.


The opportunity occurred. One day it was announced that several things had happened to the old exile Lord Clancharlie, the most important of which was that he had died. Death does men this much good,—it makes them the subject of conversation for a time. People told what they knew, or what they thought they knew, about the last years of Lord Linnæus. What they said was probably a mixture of hearsay and conjecture. If these tales were to be credited, Lord Clancharlie's republicanism was intensified towards the end of his days to the extent of marrying (strange obstinacy on the part of the exile!) Ann Bradshaw, the daughter of a regicide: they were precise about the name. This lady had died, it was said, in giving birth to a boy. If these details should prove to be correct, this child would, of course, be the legitimate and rightful heir of Lord Clancharlie. These reports, however, were extremely vague in form, and were rumours rather than facts. Circumstances which happened in Switzerland in those days were as remote from the England of that period as those which take place in China from the England of to-day. Lord Clancharlie must have been fifty-nine at the time of his marriage, they said, and sixty at the birth of his son, and must have died shortly after, leaving his infant bereft both of father and mother. This was possible, perhaps, but improbable. They added that the child was beautiful as the day,—just as we read in all the fairy tales.

King James put an end to these rumours (which must have been entirely without foundation) by declaring, one fine morning, Lord David Dirry-Moir sole and positive heir in default of legitimate issue, and by his royal pleasure, of Lord Linnæus Clancharlie, his natural father, the absence of all other issue and descent being established; and patents of this grant were duly registered in the House of Lords. By these patents the king instated Lord David Dirry-Moir in all the titles, rights, and prerogatives of the late Lord Linnæus Clancharlie, on the sole condition that Lord David should wed, when she attained a marriageable age, a certain girl who was at that time a mere infant a few months old, and whom the king in her cradle had created a duchess, no one knew exactly why,—or, rather, every one knew why. This little infant was called the Duchess Josiana. Spanish names were then all the rage in England. One of Charles II.'s bastards was called Carlos Earl of Plymouth. It is likely that Josiana was a contraction for Josefa-y-Ana. Josiana, however, may have been a name,—the feminine of Josias. One of Henri III.'s gentlemen was called Josias du Passage. It was to this little duchess that the king granted the peerage of Clancharlie. She was a peeress till there should be a peer; the peer was to be her husband. The peerage was founded on a double castleward, the barony of Clancharlie and the barony of Hunkerville; besides, the barons of Clancharlie were, as a reward for some ancient deed of prowess, and by royal license, Marquises of Corleone in Sicily.

Peers of England cannot bear foreign titles. There are, nevertheless, exceptions; thus Henry Arundel, Baron Arundel of Wardour, was, as well as Lord Clifford, a Count of the Holy Roman Empire, of which Lord Cowper is a prince. The Duke of Hamilton is Duke of Chatelherault, in France; Basil Fielding, Earl of Denbigh, is Count of Hapsburg, of Lauffenberg, and of Rheinfelden, in Germany. The Duke of Marlborough was Prince of Mindelheim in Suabia, just as the Duke of Wellington was Prince of Waterloo in Belgium. This same Lord Wellington was also a Spanish Duke of Ciudad Rodrigo, and Portuguese Count of Vimiera.

There were in England, and there are still, both entailed and unentailed estates. The lands of the Lords of Clancharlie were all entailed. These lands, burghs, bailiwicks, fiefs, rents, freeholds, and domains, adherent to the peerage of Clancharlie-Hunkerville, now belonged provisionally to Lady Josiana; and the king declared that, once married to Josiana, Lord David Dirry-Moir should be Baron Clancharlie. Besides the Clancharlie inheritance, Lady Josiana had her own private fortune. She possessed great wealth, much of which was derived from the gifts of Madame sans queue—in other words, Madame—to the Duke of York. Henrietta of England, Duchess of Orleans, the lady of highest rank in France after the queen, was called Madame sans queue.


Having prospered under Charles and James, Lord David continued to prosper under William. His Jacobite feelings did not reach to the extent of following James into exile. While he continued to love his legitimate king, he had the good sense to serve the usurper; he was, moreover, although sometimes disposed to rebel against discipline, an excellent officer. He exchanged from the land to the sea forces, and distinguished himself in the White Squadron; he rose in it to be what was then called captain of a light frigate. Altogether he was a very fine fellow, extremely elegant in his vices; a bit of a poet, like everybody else at that epoch; a good servant of the State and a good servant to the prince; assiduous at feasts, at ladies' receptions, at ceremonials, and in battle; servile in a gentlemanly way, and yet haughty in the extreme; with eyesight dull or keen, according to the object examined; in manner obsequious or arrogant, as occasion required; frank and sincere on first acquaintance, with the power of assuming the mask afterwards; very observant of the smiles and frowns of his royal master; careless before a sword's point; always ready with heroism and complacency to risk his life at a sign from his Majesty; capable of any insult but of no impoliteness; a man of courtesy and etiquette, proud of kneeling at great regal ceremonies; of a gay valour; a courtier on the surface, a paladin below; and young at forty-five. Lord David sang French songs charmingly,—an elegant accomplishment which had delighted Charles II. He loved eloquence and fine speaking, and was a great admirer of those celebrated discourses which are called the funeral orations of Bossuet. From his mother he had inherited almost enough to live on,—about £10,000 a year. He managed to get on with it, by running into debt. In magnificence, extravagance, and novelty he was without a rival. Directly he was copied, he changed his fashion. On horseback he wore loose boots of cow-hide, which turned over, with spurs. He had hats like nobody else's, unheard-of lace, and bands of which he alone had the pattern.


Man Who Laughs (1869) v1 p217.jpg


Lord David Dirry-Moir.

Photo-Etching.—From Drawing by G. Rochegrosse.