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THE “Lives of the Queens of England” necessarily close with the present volume, which contains the regnal Life of Queen Anne, and concludes with her death. She is the last queen of Great Britain, of whom historical biography can be written—at least, consistently with the plan of a work based on documents, and illustrated with original letters and other authentic sources of information. We have been warned “not to judge as the world judgeth, but to judge righteous judgment." How are we to do this, unless we can examine the evidences on which, alone, we can rely for the elucidation of the characteristics of the queens of the present dynasty, and for the explanation of actions which appear inscrutable till the motives, or impelling causes, are laid bare by correspondence and domestic state papers, which are of course locked up in the family archives of their illustrious descendants ? Lives of the Brunswick queens, written without the fullest reference to those papers, would be an imposition on the public, as they could amount to nothing more than a compilation of frivolous gossip unworthy of a place in any library. In fact, personages so near our own times are not proper or popular subjects for historical investigation.
These considerations have induced us to limit this series of royal biographies to the Lives of our mediæval queens, commencing with the consort of William the Conqueror, and occupying that most interesting and important period of our national chronology, from the death of the last monarch of the ancient Anglo-Saxon line, Edward the Confessor, in the year 1066, to the demise of the last sovereign
of the royal house of Stuart, Queen Anne, in 1714. In this series of queens, thirty have worn the crown-matrimonial, and four the regal diadem of this realm.
What changes—what revolutions—what scenes of civil and religious strife—what exciting tragedies are not involved in the details of those four-and-thirty lives! They extend over six hundred and fifty-two years, such as the world will never see again—the ages of feudality, of chivalry and romance—ages of splendour and misery that witnessed the brilliant chimera of crusades, the more fatal triumphs of our Edwards and Henrys, in their reiterated attempts to annex the crown of France to that of England, and the national destitution and domestic woe that followed the lavish expenditure of English blood and treasure in a foreign landthe deadly feud of the rival Roses of York and Lancaster, wh ended in the extinction of the name and male line of Plantagenet—the stupendous changes of public opinion that followed the accession of the house of Tudor to the throne, effecting first the overthrow of the feudal system, and then of the Romish theocracy, leaving royalty to revel unchecked in a century of absolute despotism-the crisis of the Reformation and the emancipation of England from the papal yoke--the struggle of the middle classes for the assertion of their political rights and national importance overpowering royalty at last, and establishing a democracy under the name of a Commonwealth, ending, as all democracies sooner or later must, in a military dictatorship, followed by the restoration of the monarchical government and a fever of loyal affection for the restored sovereign-the slow but sure reaction of democracy and dissent against royalty and the established church, assisted by a no-popery panic—the Orange intrigues, encouraged by a pope, against the Roman-catholic sovereign James Îl.—the conflicting passions of the revolution of 1668—and the expulsion of the male line of Stuart—the triumph of an oligarchy—the Dutch reign, and the era of Continental wars, standing armies, national debt, and universal taxation—the contests between selfish parties and rival interests during the reign of Anne-and, finally, the happy establishment of a Protestant succession, in the peaceful accession of the illustrious House of Brunswick to the throne of the United Kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland.
With this progressive chain of national events and changes, have the royal ladies in our series of queenly biographies been inextricably linked. To use the words of Guizot,“ great events have acted on them, and they have acted according to the events."
“ There is something," observes an eloquent contemporary,“ very peculiar in the view which we obtain of history, in tracing the lives of queens-consort. The great world is never entirely shut out. The chariot of state is always to be seen the sound of its wheels is ever in our ears. We observe that the thoughts, the feelings, the actions of her whose course we are tracing are, at no time, entirely disconnected with Him by whose hand the reins are guided;" and we not unfrequently detect the impulse of her finger by the direction in which it moves.
Whether beloved or not, the influence of the wife and companion of the sovereign must always be considerable; and, for the honour of womankind, be it remembered that it has, generally speaking, been exerted for worthy pur
have been instruments in the hands of God, for the advancement of civilization and the exercise of a moral and religious influence. Many of them have been brought from foreign climes to plant the flowers and refinements of a more polished state of society in our own; and well have they, for the most part, performed their mission.
William the Conqueror brought the sword and the feudal tenure. He burned villages and turned a populous district into his hunting-ground. His consort, Matilda, introduced her Flemish artisans to teach the useful and profitable manufactures of her native land to a starving population. She brought her architects and set them to build the stately fanes, which gave employment to another class, and she encouraged the arts of sculpture, painting, and needle-work. Her daughter-in-law, Matilda of Scotland, familiarly designated by her subjects, “Maude, the goode quene," occupied herself, not only in personal works of piety and charity, and in improving the morals and manners of a licentious Norman court, but exerted her influence with her royal husband to obtain the precious boon of a charter for the people, which secured to them the privilege of being governed by the righteous laws of Alfred and Edward the Confessor. Her graceful successor, Adelicia of Louvaine, was the
patroness of poetry, and did much to improve literature and the fine arts, besides affording a spotless example of purity of conduct. Our third Matilda, the consort of Stephen, was the founder of hospitals, the friend of the poor, and a model of conjugal tenderness and heroism. Eleanora of Acquitaine, though defective in a moral point of view, was, nevertheless, a useful queen in her statistic and commercial regulations. Nothing, it is true, can be said in praise of Isabella of Angoulême, and very little for Eleanor of Provence, though, as a devoted wife and mother and a patroness of history and poetry, she had her good points. What heart, however, does not warm at the name of Eleanor of Castile—of the good, the great, the benevolent Philippa ; and of Katharine Parr, the preserver of our universities and the nursing mother of the Reformation ?-and here it is impossible to refrain from referring the reader to our life of that illustrious lady,* as a sufficient refutation of the ridiculous accusation put forth in letters, which have been addressed to the editors of daily and weekly papers, complaining of our unjust partiality “ in having made angels of all the popish queens, and demons of all the protestant queens," as if it were in the power of biographers to make historical characters anything but what they were, or just to blame them for recording facts for which authentic authorities are given. Our affections are naturally on the side of the queens of the reformed church, to which we ourselves belong. It is a church which enjoins truth, and we do not pay her so ill a compliment as to imply that she requires the sophistries of falsehood to bolster up her cause. It is impossible for any rational person to draw controversial inferences from the relative merits of Roman-catholic and protestant queens, since no two of them have been placed in similar circumstances. Our earlier queens were necessarily members of the church of Rome, and there are only the biographies of five avowedly protestant queens in this series. Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, and Anne of Cleves, died in communion with the church of Rome. Katherine Parr is, therefore, our first protestant queen, and an honour to our church. There is only another protestant queenconsort, Anne of Denmark, in this series, and our three queens-regnant, Elizabeth, Mary II., and Anne. No one
* See Lives of the Queens, vol. v.