The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 18/The Intended Riot and Tumult on Queen Elizabeth's Birthday

This work was written by Delarivier Manley. For the explanation, see footnote 1 here.













"This is queen Elizabeth's birthday, usually kept in this town by prentices, &c. But the whigs designed a mighty procession by midnight; and had laid out a thousand pounds, to dress up the pope, devil, cardinals, Sacheverell, &c. and carry them with torches about and burn them. They did it by contribution. Garth gave five guineas. But they were seized last night by order from the secretary."

"I am told the owners are so impudent that they intend to replevy them by law. I am assured that the figure of the devil is made as like lord treasurer as they could." Ibid. Nov. 19.

"I saw to day the pope, the devil, and the other figures of cardinals, &c. fifteen in all, which have made such a noise. I have put an understrapper upon writing a twopenny pamphlet, to give an account of the whole design." Ibid. Nov. 26.



LONDON, NOV. 24, 1711.

I AM very sorry so troublesome a companion as the gout delays the pleasure I expected by your conversation in town. You desire to know the truth of what you call "a ridiculous story," inserted in "Dyer's Letter[1]" and "The Postboy[2]," concerning the figures that were seized in Drury lane, and seemed only designed for the diversion of the mob, to rouse their old antipathy to popery, and create new aversion in them to the pretender. If, indeed, this had been their only intent, your reflections would be reasonable, and your compassion pardonable. It is an odd sort of good nature, to grieve at the rabble's being disappointed of their sport, or, as you please to term it, of "what would for the time being have certainly made them very happy." But, sir, you will not fail to change your opinion, when I shall tell you, that there was never a blacker design formed, unless it were blowing up the parliament house. No mortal can foresee what might have been the ill effects, if it had once come to execution. We are well assured, that, under pretence of custom and zeal, and what they call an innocent diversion, lurked a dangerous conspiracy: for whoever goes about to disturb the publick peace and tranquility must needs be enemies to the queen and her government.

You have been informed of the surprising generosity and fit of housekeeping the German princess[3] has been guilty of this summer, at her country seat, in direct contradiction to her former thrifty management; yet, to do her justice, she is not so parsimonious as her lord, nor sets half that value upon a guinea: though her dexterity in getting be as great as his, he outdoes her in preserving. She has had a wonderful address in some things! witness the known story of the diamond[4], which is as great an instance of good management on her side, as my lord's making one suit of clothes serve three sets of buttons can be of his frugality. She seems to have forgotten, or rather outlived, all the softer passions, those beautiful blemishes for which they are often pitied by our sex, but never really hated. Wrath, ill nature, spleen, and revenge, are those with whom her ladyship has been in league for many months: she has even fallen into the common weakness of unfortunate women, who have recourse to silly fellows called conjurers; or perhaps in imitation of her mother, her ladyship wanted a very witch; she would give any thing to converse with a real witch; at last she took up with a wizard, an ignorant creature, who pretends to deal with the stars, and, by corresponding with thief-catchers, helps people to their goods, when they have been stolen. To please her highness, he revived an old cheat, of making an image like the person she most hated; upon which image he would so far work by enchantment, that him it represented, from that moment should grow distempered, and languish out his short life in divers sorts of pains. Since the wizard was taken into the lady's pay, a certain great man has happened to be indisposed; by which means she remains very well satisfied with the experiment, and imagines this accident to be owing to the force of her enchantment, from which she promises herself still greater events. Though we laugh at the folly, we cannot but remark the malice of the attempt.

On Friday the sixteenth of November, the heads of the party met at the new palace[5], where the late viceroy[6] recounted to them the happy disposition of affairs; and concluded, "That, notwithstanding all their misfortunes, they had still to morrow for it." This person, who has so often boasted himself upon his talent for mischief, invention, lying, and for making a certain lillibullero song, with which, if you will believe himself, he sung a deluded prince out of three kingdoms, was resolved to try if, by the cry of "No peace, high church, popery, and the pretender," he could halloo another in. There were several figures dressed up; fifteen of them were found in an empty house in Drury lane; the pope, the pretender, and the devil, seated under a state, whereof the canopy was scarlet stuff trimmed with deep silver fringe; the pope was as fine as a pope need to be, the devil as terrible, the pretender habited in scarlet laced with silver, a full fair long periwig, and a hat and feather. They had all white gloves, not excepting the very devils; which whether quite so proper, I leave to the learned. This machine was designed to be born upon men's shoulders; the long trains dependant from the figures were to conceal those that carried them. Six devils were to appear as drawing the chariot, to be followed by four cardinals, in fine proper habits; four Jesuits and four franciscan friars, each with a pair of white gloves on, a pair of beads, and a flaming, or, if you please, a bloody faulchion in their hands. Pray judge, if such a parade should at any time appear, without the proper disposition of lights, &c. as was here intended; do you not believe it would be a sufficient call to the multitude; and that they would never forsake it till their curiosity had been satisfied to the full? Any man in his senses may find this was a deliberate as well as a great expense. To prepare men's minds for sedition, one Stoughton's sermon[7] (which was burnt by the common hangman in Ireland, by order of the house of lords) preached at St. Patrick's in Dublin, and printed there, was that very week reprinted here, and handed about with extreme diligence: and, to fill the people with false fear and terrour, they had some days before reported that the queen was dangerously ill of the gout in her stomach and bowels. The very day of the designed procession, it was whispered upon the Exchange, and all over the city, that she was dead. A gentlewoman that makes wax-work declares, "that, some time before, certain persons of quality, as she judged, who called one another sir Harry, sir John, sir James, &c. came to her house, and bespoke several wax-work figures, one for a lady; they agreed to her price, paid half in hand, and the rest when they fetched them away." These figures are not yet taken. One was designed to represent the lord treasurer, the lady Mrs. Masham, and the rest the other great officers of the court with Dr. Sacheverell; which the workwoman was ordered to make as like his picture as possibly she could. A certain lady, renowned for beauty[8], at the princess's palace, desired that she might have the dressing up of the young, handsome statesman[9], whose bright parts are so terrible to the enemies of his country; in order to it, she proposed borrowing from the playhouse Æsop's large white horsehair periwig. Her lord[10] furnished out the rest of the materials from the queen's wardrobe. No wonder he should be an enemy to peace, when his father gains so much by the continuance of the war; nor that a certain young duchess was so eager to have him go in disguise with the viceroy, when his absence was convenient!

Farther to convince you that this was a premeditated design, and carried on in all its forms, proper persons had been busy beforehand, to secure a thousand mob, to carry lights at this goodly procession. One of these agents came to a victuallinghouse in Clare market; he called for drink and the master of the house, of whom he inquired, "if he could procure him forty stout fellows to carry flambeaux on Saturday the 17th instant, to meet there at one o'clock? They should have a crown apiece in hand; and whatever they drank till five, he would be there to see discharged." At such a proposal, mine host pricked up his ears; and told his honour, "His honour need not fear but that he might have as many as his honour pleased, at that price." Accordingly he fetched in several from the market, butchers, tripemen, poulterers prentices, who joyfully listed themselves against the day, because it was to be a holiday, and they should not stand in need of their masters leave; "for, on queen Bess's day," they said, "they always went out of course." The landlord promised to make up the complement by the appointed time, with honest lads, who would be glad to get their bellies full of drink, and a crown apiece, in an honest way. All was agreed upon; the gentleman paid the reckoning, which came to a considerable sum in beer and brandy for his mob, and departed, with assurance of being there at one o'clock to meet his myrmidons; but, the matter being discovered, he has not been heard of since, to the great disappointment of the good man and the people he had engaged. The like was done in several other parts of the town. They had secured to the number, as I told you, of one thousand persons, who were so hired to carry lights, though they knew not to what end, doubtless for a burial, among whom were many of the very foot guards. Drinking from one to five, it is plain they were to be made drunk, the better to qualify them for what mischief was designed by their proper leaders. The viceroy, with some others of as good and two or three of better rank than himself, were resolved to act in disguise; the viceroy like a seaman, in which he hoped to outdo Massaniello of Naples, whose fame he very much envies for the mighty mischief he occasioned. His busy head was the first inventor of the design; and he would take it very ill if he were robbed of the glory. He had lately proved the power of an accidental mob, and therefore hoped much better from a premeditated one: he did not doubt inflaming them to his wish by the noise of popery and the pretender, by which they would be put into a humour to burn even Dr. Sacheverell and the other effigies. At their several bonfires, where the parade was to make a stand, the preliminary articles were to be thrown in, with a cry of "No peace;"" and proper messengers were to come galloping, as if like to break their necks, their horses all in a foam, who should cry out, "The queen, the queen, was dead at Hampton court." At the same time the duke of Marlborough was to make his entry through Aldgate, where he was to be met with the cry of "Victory, Bouchain, the lines, no peace, no peace." If matters had once come to this pass, I do not see what could have hindered the leaders from doing all the mischief they desired, from exalting and pulling down whom they pleased, nor from executing, during the rage of the people, prepossessed, as they would be, with the news of the queen's death, whatever violence, injustice, and cruelty, they should think fit. They had resolved before what houses should be burnt. They were to begin with one in Essex street, where the commissioners of accompts meet, from whence a late discovery has been made of vast sums annually received by a great man, for his permission to serve the army with bread. They said, "Harley should have better luck than they expected, if he escaped de Witting[11]; they would set people to watch him all that day, that they might know where to find him when they had occasion." And truly who can answer for the consequence of such a tumult, the rage of a mad drunken populace, fomented by such incendiaries (for the whole party, to a man, were engaged to be there)? I do not see how the city could have escaped destruction. There were many to kindle fires, none to put them out. The Spectator, who ought to be but a looker on, was to have been an assistant, that, seeing London in a flame, he might have opportunity to paint after the life, and remark the behaviour of the people in the ruin of their country, so to have made a diverting Spectator. But I cannot but look up to God Almighty with praise for our deliverance, and really think we have very much need of a thanksgiving; for, in all probability, the mischief had been universal and irremediable. I tremble to think what lengths they would have gone: I dare not so much as imagine it. They had taken Massaniello's insurrection for a precedent, by which all who were not directly of their own party had suffered, as may be gathered from what we know of their nature, and by what is already discovered, though there is doubtless a great deal more behind. As soon as the figures were seized, they dispatched away a messenger express to the place where it was known the duke intended to land, to tell him he might now take his own time; there was no occasion "for his being on the seventeenth instant, by seven at night, at Aldgate;" and so he lay that night five miles short of the town[12].

However the viceroy may value himself upon this design, he seems but to have copied my lord Shaftesbury in 1679[13], on the same anniversary. It is well known, by the favour of the mob, they hoped then to have made the duke of Monmouth[14] king, who was planted at sir Thomas Fowls's at Temple Bar, to wait the event; whilst the rest of the great men of his party were over the way at Henry the Eighth's tavern. King Charles had been persuaded to come to sir Francis Child's to see the procession; but, before it began, he had private notice given him to retire, for fear of what mischief the mob might be wrought up to. He did so; which ruined the design they had, to seize on his person, and proclaim the duke king. This was the scheme our modern politicians went upon. One of them was heard to say, "They must have more diversions than one, i. e. burning, for the good people of London; since the mob loved to create[15], as well as destroy."

By this time, I do not doubt, sir, but you are thoroughly convinced of the innocence of this intended procession; which they publickly avow, and tell the ministry they are welcome to make what they can of it, knowing themselves safe by having only intended, not acted the mischief; if it had once come to that, they would have been so far above the fear of punishment for their own crimes, as to become executioners of the innocent.

Truly, I think, the malice of that party is immortal, since not to be satiated with twenty-three years plunder, the blood of so many wretches, nor the immense debt with which they have burdened us. Through the unexampled goodness of the queen, and the lenity of the other parts of the legislature, they are suffered to sit down unmolested, to bask and revel in that wealth they have so unjustly acquired: yet they pursue their principles with unwearied industry, club their wit, money, politicks, toward restoring their party to that power from whence they are fallen; which, since they find so difficult, they take care, by all methods, to disturb and vilify those who are in possession of it. Peace is such a bitter pill, they know not how to swallow: to poison the people against it, they try every nail, and have at last hit of one they think will go, and that they drive to the head. They cry, "No peace," till the trade of our own nation be entirely given up to our neighbours. Thus they would carry on the publick good of Europe, at the expense of our private destruction. They cry, "Our trade will be ruined if the Spanish West Indies remain to a son of France;" though the death of his father may cause Philip to forget his birth and country, which he left so young. After the decease of his grandfather, he will be only the brother of a haughty rough natured king, who in all probability may give him many occasions to become every day more and more a Spaniard.

They do not allow the dauphin's or the emperor's death have made an alteration in affairs, and confide all things to the supine temper of the Austrian princes; from whence they conclude there can be no danger in trusting half Europe to the easy unactive hands of such an emperor. But may not another Charles the Fifth arise? another Philip the Second? who, though not possessed of the Austrian territories, gave more trouble and terrour to England, than ever she felt from France; insomuch as, had not the seas and winds fought our battles, their invincible Armada had certainly brought upon us slavery and a popish queen! Neither is it a new thing for princes to improve, as well as degenerate. Power generally brings a change of temper. Phillp de Comines tells us, "That the great duke of Burgundy, in his youth, hated the thoughts of war, and the fatigue of the field. After he had fought and gained one battle, he loved nothing else; and could never be easy in peace, but led all his life in war, and at length died in it; for want of other enemies, fighting against the poor barren Swissers, who were possessed of nothing worth contending for."

But it is not reason, or even facts, that can subdue this stubborn party. They bear down all by noise and misrepresentation. They are, but will not seem, convinced; and make it their business to prevent others from being so. If they can but rail and raise a clamour, they hope to be believed, though the miserable effects of their maleadministration are ten thousand to one against them: a festering obvious sore, which when it can be healed we know not, though the most famous artists apply their constant skill to endeavour at a cure. Their aversion to any government but their own is unalterable; like some rivers, that are said to pass through without mingling with the sea; though, disappearing for a time, they arise the same, and never change their nature.

I am, sir. &c.

*** The preceding tract will be best illustrated by the following account of the subject of it, transcribed from a folio half sheet published in 1711.

"An account of the mock procession of burning the pope and the chevalier de St. George, intended to be performed on the 17th instant, being the anniversary of queen Elizabeth of pious and glorious memory.

The owners of the pope, the chevalier de St. George, fourteen cardinals, and as many devils, which were taken out of a house in Drury lane, at midnight, between the 16th and 17th instant, and exposed to view at the Cockpit for nothing (on the latter of those days), think fit to acquaint the world, that their intention in making them was, with those and other images (in case their goods had not been forcibly taken away), to have formed the following procession.

Twenty watchmen, to clear the way, with linkboys lighting them on each side.

Twenty-four bagpipes marching four and four, and playing the memorable tune of Lillibullero.

Ten watchmen marching two and two, to prevent disorder.

Four drums in mourning, with the pope's arms in their caps.

A figure representing cardinal Gualteri, lately made by the pretender protector of the English nation, looking down on the ground in a sorrowful posture; his train supported by two missionaries from Rome, supposed to be now in England.

Two pages, throwng beads, bulls, pardons, and indulgences.

Two jack puddings sprinkling holy water.

Twelve hautboys playing the tune of the Greenwood Tree.

Two lackeys on each side of them, bearing streamers, with these words, Nolumus Leges Angliæ mutare, being the device on the colours of the right reverend the bishop of London's troops when he marched into Oxford in the year 1688.

Six beadles with protestant flails in their hands.

These followed by four persons bearing streamers, each with the pictures of the seven bishops who were sent to the Tower.

Twelve monks, representing the fellows who were put into Magdalen college in Oxford, on the expulsion of the protestants.

Twelve streamerbearers, with different devices, representing sandals, ropes, beads, bald pates, and bigbellied nuns.

A lawyer, representing the clerk of the high commission court.

Twelve heralds marching one after another, at a great distance, with pamphlets, setting forth king James II’s power of dispensing with the test and penal laws.

On each side of the heralds, fifty links.

After these, four fat friars in their habits, streamers carried over their heads, with these words, "Eat and pray."

Four jesuits in English habits, with flower-de-luces on their shoulders, inscribed, "Indefeasible;" and masks on their faces, on which is writ, "The house of Hanover."

Four jesuits in their proper habits.

Four cardinals of Rome in their red hats curiously wrought.

The pope under a magnificent canopy, with a right silver fringe, accompanied by the chevalier St. George on the left, and his counsellor the devil on his right.

The whole procession closed by twenty streamers, on each of which was wrought these words,

’God bless queen Anne, the nation's great defender!
’Keep out the French, the pope, and the pretender.'

In this order it was intended, with proper reliefs of lights at several stations in the march, to go thorough Drury lane, Long acre, Gerrard street, Piccadilly, Germain street, St. James's square, Pellmell, Strand, Catherine street, Russel street, Drury lane, Great Queen street, Little Queen street, Holbourn, Newgate street, Cornhill, Bishopsgate street, where they were to wheel about, and return thorough St. Paul's churchyard to Fleet street. And at the Temple, before the statue of that illustrious lady whose anniversary was then celebrated, that queen wearing a veil, on which are drawn the picture of her present majesty, and under it the battles of Blenheim, Ramillies, Oudenarde, and the passage of the lines in this present year 1711, after proper ditties were sung, the pretender was to have been committed to the flames, being first absolved by the cardinal Gualteri. After that, the said cardinal was to be absolved by the pope, and burnt. And then the devil was to jump into the flames with his holiness in his arms.

And let all the people say Amen."

  1. A newspaper of that time, which, according to Mr. Addison, was entitled to little credit. Honest Vellum, in "The Drummer," act II, scene 1, cannot but believe his master is living (among other reasons) "because the news of his death was first published in Dyer's Letter."
  2. By Abel Roper.
  3. The English general, the duke of Marlborough, was made more haughty than before, by the compliment, for it was little more, which was made him by the emperor, of creating him a PRINCE OF THE EMPIRE, by the title of Mildenheim, a little principality in the claim of the house of Bavaria.Mesnager.
  4. Though this be now forgotten, Dr. Swift has perpetuated another diamond story to this lady's honour, in the Journal to Stella, April 11, 1713.
  5. These were, according to the publications of the time, the duke of Grafton, the earl of Godolphin, Dr. Garth, the duke of Somerset, the earl of Sunderland, lord Somers, the earl of Wharton, and lord Halifax, all members of the famous Kit-kat Club; to which the duke of Marlborough also belonged. See "Political State," November, 1711.
  6. Thomas, earl of Wharton, afterward created a marquis.
  7. This sermon was first preached at Christ Church, Dublin, Jan. 30, 1705-6; and was burnt by the common hangman, Nov. 9, 1711. "A bold opinion (says Swift on that occasion) is a short, easy way to merit, and very necessary for those who have no other."
  8. Lady Mary Churchill, youngest daughter of John, duke of Marlborough, married to John, the second duke of Montague, and marquis Monthermer. The duchess and her sister lady Anne were much admired by the poets of that age.
  9. Mr. secretary St. John.
  10. John, the second duke of Montague, succeeded his father, March 2, 1709-10, in his titles and estate, and also in the office of master of the great wardrobe. He was afterward appointed master of the ordinance, and died July 6, 1749.
  11. The superiour talents and virtue of the pensioner de Witt made him the chief object of general envy, and exposed him to the utmost rage of popular prejudices and finally assassination. See Hume's History of England, vol. VII.
  12. The duke was soon after entirely out of favour at court. On Sunday, December 30, the queen in council thought fit to dismiss him from all his employments.
  13. The effigies of the pope, the devil, sir George Jefferys, Mr. l’Estrange, &c. were that year carried in procession, and burnt at Temple Bar by the whig mob.
  14. James Fitzroy, duke of Monmouth and Buccleugh, earl of Doncaster and Dalkeith, baron of Tindale, &c. in 1663. He was attainted by act of Parliament; and beheaded on Tower Hill, July 15, 1685.
  15. Make a king. Manley.