Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 01.djvu/475

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.


to carry out a plan of action upon which its chiefs had previously determined. (See the curious letter from Sunderland to Newcastle in Ellis, Original Letters, 2nd series, iv. 251 seq.) The prince was to be deprived of his office, ‘for that whatever council he has, George Churchill will in effect be always lord high admiral.’ The duke judiciously persuaded his brother to resign; but, more especially as nothing short of the removal of the prince would facilitate the redistribution of offices they had at heart, the whigs refused to be appeased by this sacrifice. At last, in order to spare a cruel humiliation to her husband, who was at the time hopelessly ill, the queen signified her willingness to give way in behalf of Somers. On 2 Nov. Godolphin joyfully announced the news to Marlborough; on the 28th the Prince of Denmark died. The queen, who had displayed a constant affection towards him, had been assiduous in her attentions during his sufferings. For nearly two months after his decease she saw no visitors, nor did she appear in public till her birthday in the following year (Luttrell). The Duchess of Marlborough had in a not unbecoming manner pressed her sympathy upon the queen at the last stage of the prince's illness, and had been present at his deathbed in Kensington Palace. The account of the curious scenes which followed will be found at length in her ‘Private Correspondence’ (i. 410–16). The queen, who ‘expressed some passion’ on quitting her husband's corpse, suffered herself to be persuaded by the duchess to leave Kensington for St. James's, but deeply offended her former favourite by the preference she exhibited for Mrs. Masham. At St. James's in the evening a similar experience awaited the duchess, who indulged in some unseemly sarcasms against her mistress, adding, by way of amends, that the queen ‘had bits of great tenderness for the prince;’ and ‘I did see the tears in her eyes two or three times after his death, upon his subject, and, I believe, she fancied she loved him; and she was certainly more concerned for him than she was for the fate of Gloucester; but her nature was very hard, and she was not apt to cry.’ No real reconciliation followed these meetings; and when, in March 1708–9, Marlborough returned to England after the failure of the peace negotiations, he was mortified to find Mrs. Masham courted by persons of all ranks and distinctions (Coxe, iii. 31).

After some delay it proved that, outwardly at least, the prince's death had made a great change in public affairs. In November Pembroke was made lord high admiral, Wharton lord lieutenant of Ireland, and Somers lord president of the council. The queen's mourning rendered the reserve now shown by her to her ministers, both old and new, less surprising. Little respite, however, was allowed her. A passage in the prayer book, suitable to her married state, having been rather tardily altered, both houses immediately sent up an address requesting her not to indulge her grief so far as to lay aside thoughts of a second marriage, which she very properly met by declining to send any particular answer. Indeed, the address had, by many persons on both sides, been regarded as a bad joke (Wentworth Papers, 75). But a more pertinacious attempt was made to oblige her to satisfy the claims to office of the two members of the junto still left out in the shade—Halifax and Orford. In the end, she once more appealed to Marlborough to take her part against the whigs; but he must have declined to interfere, as, before his return from his campaign in November 1709, Orford had been placed at the head of the admiralty. In the summer of 1709 the duchess had, notwithstanding the duke's warnings, striven to keep up a sarcastic correspondence with the queen; and having embarrassed her through asking, by way of a more convenient entrance to her own apartments, for some rooms which the queen wished to give to Mrs. Masham's sister, improved the occasion to the best of her power. The queen was driven to inform her that their connection must henceforth be an official one, whereupon the duchess surpassed herself by drawing up a copious narrative of her twenty-six years' services given and favours received, and forwarding it to the queen with extracts concerning friendship and charity from ‘The Whole Duty of Man,’ and a similar passage from Jeremy Taylor. Anne failed to fulfil a promise to read and answer these papers, and at church passed the duchess with an impersonal smile (Conduct, 224–7). Nor was there any longer any doubt as to the importance of Mrs. Masham's influence. Among her statesmen she chiefly favoured Somerset, while Harley was busily directing the attacks of Jacobite zeal and tory spite against Marlborough and the war policy. For with this policy Marlborough and Godolphin must stand or fall.

The campaigns of 1709 had but little advanced the war, although after the surrender of Tournay the battle of Malplaquet (11 Sept.) had led to the fall of Mons (26 Oct.). Marlborough now proposed that his office of captain-general should be conferred on him for life. The proposal was not supported by the