Abbildungen der Seite

vouth, with a natural proneness to mischief, his Royal Highness did not steer clear of the commission of many juvenile indiscretions, which although distinguished by considerable annoyance and inconvenience to particular individuals, yet they could not be said to bear the stamp of actual vice. A sailor on shore is at best, but a motley kind of an animal ; prudence seldom stands at the helm, and the tacks which he makes, are sometimes of so eccentric a character, that he is often obliged to be taken in tow, to prevent his being totally wrecked on the rocks of folly. Prince William had been long enough in the navy, to invest himself with some of the characteristic traits of a sailor, and it was in many respects, fortunate for him, that he could throw off the dignity of his rank, and assimilate bis manners to those of his associates. One of the junior lieutenants on board the Prince George, was a member of the noble family of St. Albans, and Prince William entertaining a partiality for young Beauclerk, a friendship was cemented between them, which was uninterrupted during the remainder of their life. The senior midshipman also belonged to a noble family, and, perhaps, there was a love of nobility and rank, lurking in the breasts of the three youthful heroes, which Co-operated more than any other cause, to cement those bonds of friendship between them, which were never broken during their naval career; and being well worthy of each other in regard to personal character, were the source of mutual satisfaction and delight.

That three such high-blooded youths could be long ashore without being guilty of some excesses, can only be supposed by those who judge of human nature by a particular standard, without taking into consideration the peculiarity of circumstances into which an individual may be thrown, and the particular condition in which he stands in society. A youth emancipated for a time from the strict discipline and confinement of a ship, is like an unbroken steed turned into a meadow, in which his frolics, and his gambols, will most probably occasion some damage, but, which, if not accompanied by a

vicious temperament, will soon be corrected by a little seasonable discipline.

There are certain taverns or saloons in Gibraltar, which are by no means renowned for the purity of character which is there displayed by the female sex, and it must be confessed that the black piercing eye, and the voluptuous form of the Spanish ladies possessed sufficient attractions to induce the youthful sailors to repair to their haunts, where under the influence of the Tuscan grape, they got themselves into many scrapes, some of which were likely to be attended with very serious consequences. On one occasion, a party of five young men were carousing at one of the tables, wben Prince William and his two noble associates entered the room. They had not been long seated, when one of the five in a most rude and unjustifiable manner, especially in the presence of three naval officers, expressed his opinion, that Rodney had not given so good an account of the Spanish fleet, as he ought to have done, considering the force he had under him. On hearing this, young Beauclerck went up to him and told him, that if he did not immediately retract his words he would punish him on the spot. The upstart braggadocio, presuming on the superiority of their numbers, declared he would not retract his words, and further, that he considered it all act of direct rudeness, in any one interfering in their conversation, and that he had a right to express his opinion, and would do it.

On this, without any further ceremony, Beauclerck gave him such a blow on the nose, that the blood flew in all directions; a genera! row ensued, and others coming up to the assistance of their townsmen, the three youngsters were secured and delivered over to the civil power. The rank of one of them was soon ascertained, and the circumstance soon spread over the whole of the garrison, that a son of the King of England was in custody. Admiral Digby was immediately despatched by Sir George Rodney to investigate the business, and on the circumstance transpiring that a gross insult had been offered to the young officers, which was impossible for them to look over, the order was made for their instant liberation, and a stoppage put to

mony, than

any further visit on shore, except in the company of a superior officer.

This was, however, not the only scrape which Prince William fell into, but they were all the effect of juvenile indiscretion, unaccompanied by the display of any actual vice, and they merely subjected him to a reprimand from his superior officer, who in this respect, treated him with no greater cere


of his brother messmates. Gibraltar having been effectually relieved by Sir George Rodney, he left that place on the 13th of February, and a few days afterwards parted company with Admiral Digby, who was despatched home with the prizes. He was also the bearer of despatches from Rodney to the government, stating, that he had sent home the prizes, as fine ships as ever swam. “ They are now," he added, “ completely refitted, manned, and put in line of battle, and I will answer for them, they will do their duty as English men of war, should the enemy give them an opportunity.”

On the homeward passage, Admiral Digby was so fortunate as to fall in with a French convoy bound to the Mauritius, consisting of two ships of sixty-four guns each; two large store ships, armed en flute, two frigates, and about thirteen sail of transports, with warlike stores and troops. Three of the convoy were taken with the Prothee, one of the sixtyfours; the Ajax, however, and the rest escaped, owing to the want of some light vessels to pursue

them, On the arrival of the Prince George in port, Prince William set off for London, where he arrived on the 8th of May, and was heartily welcomed by his family. The following day, the Prince was formally introduced to the King by the Earl of Sandwich, to present the flags captured from the Spanish Admiral Langara, and the other prizes. Colonel Drinkwater makes mention of this circumstance, in the following terms.

6. When that youthful hero, Prince William, on his return, laid his early laurels at the feet of his royal father, he presented at the same time, a plan of the garrison, in the relief of which he had made his first essay. In that plan were de

[ocr errors]

lineated the improvements which the place had undergone. and the new batteries that had been erected on the heights since the commencement of the blockade.”

The connexion of Prince William with the naval service, made him at that time, a special favourite with the people. The profligacies of his two elder brothers had already begun to excite the public attention; and the public drew the line of comparison between them and the youthful sailor, who was gallantly fighting the battles of his country, whilst they were running the round of libertinism and debauchery; and, therefore, in proportion as the former rose in the good opinion of the public, the latter deservedly fell, and fell also never to regain the position which they had lost. The Prince of Wales was then on the eve of his majority, and the public, no doubt, felt great delight on receiving the information that his Royal Highness, was an excellent musician, regularly attending the catch and glee clubs, and employing the energies of his mind, in the composition of some additional stanzas to the glee of “ the Happy Fellow,” or “ By the gaily circling glass,” in fact, it was eulogistically said of him, that he was a musician among princes, and a prince amongst musicians.

Very different, indeed, was the life which Prince William led. He had been present at a naval battle of some consequence to the national welfare, under the peculiar circumstances in which the country then stood. The American war, one of the most unpopular that this country ever engaged in, depressed the spirit of the people, and the formidable attitude which the French and Spanish navy exhibited, and the extraordinary vigour which was shown in the equipment of their fleets, excited a degree of alarm throughout the whole country, which vented itself in loud denunciations of the policy of the Ministers in prosecuting a war, which was easily foreseen would end in disaster and disgrace. The news of a victory on the territory of America, was received in this country with the utmost coolness and indifference, as it was considered rather a pledge for the continuance of the war, than a step towards a general pacification. The victory of

Rodney acted in some degree, as an impetus to the spirits of the people, who properly looked to the navy as their best bulwark in the hour of danger, and their safeguard against the encroachments of the enemy. The name of Rodney became as familiar to the lips of an Englishman, as the name “ of his household gods," and as the poets and poetasters of the day could not possibly allow such a glorious opportunity to escape them of exercising their talents; it may be naturally concluded, that in the multitudinous effusions which appeared in “the poets corner" of the daily prints and magazines, the name of Prince William was generally associated with that of Rodney, Mr. Pye, the Poet Laureat, of course, led the poetic train, astounding the public with his empyrean flights, and raising their enthusiasm with his thundering alexandrines. Others were of the Della Cruscan school, the Rosa Matildas, and Hafizs of the day, who, in effusions like the following, sounded the royal hero's praise.

[ocr errors][merged small]

Now last, not least in love, the Muse
Her William's name would fondly chuse

The British youth among.
Still may the sailors love thy name,
And happy wealth and blooming fame,

Awake the future song.
So in the spring the promis'd rose
First buds, and budding gently blows

Beneath the morning dew;
Till nourished by a warmer ray,
The blushing leaves their sweets display,

And fragrance ever new.
E'en now the sea-green sisters bind
A wreath around thy growing mind,

And deck their favourite son.
E'en now the Bourbon colours meet,
Which laying at thy father's feet,

Thon tell'st how bravely won.

It, however, did not require the poet's aid to render Prince William a favourite with the people, and when it was publicly announced, that it was his intention to visit Drury Lane Theatre,

« ZurückWeiter »