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crowds flocked to the theatre to see him, and considerable danger was encountered on account of the pressure.
During his stay on shore, Prince William joined his royal brothers in their amusements, and it may be added in their indiscretions also. Vauxhall and the Rotunda at Ranelagh Gar. dens were their favourite places of resort, where frequently they were seen engaged in broils, by no means creditable to their rank and character. Ranelagh Gardens were at that time the rendezvous of all the elegantes of fashion, and proud indeed was the female who could boast of being selected as the companion of one of the handsomest men of the age. It was, however, frequently in disguise that the royal brothers committed their juvenile follies, and the masquerades, which were at that time far more fashionable than they are at present, were the grand scenes of their libertinism. A ludicrous circumstance has been mentioned connected with these frolics, which we have heard related by one of the parties, who was present. At a masquerade in which the Prince of Wales appeared in the character of a Spanish grandee, accompanied by four of his esquires, he paid particular attention to a nun, who appeared to be under the protection of a youthful sailor. The assiduities on the part of the grandee, were evidently not much relished by the fair Ursuline, and the gallant tar threatened instantaneous chastisement, if any further provocation were given. The grandee, however, was not to be daunted, and he was very ably supported by bis esquires, who boasted of the high and noble descent of their master, declaring it to be an act of the greatest condescension in him to hold any parley with a common English sailor. Some high words arose, and some taunting expressions were used tending to imply the suspicion, that the fair nun possessed no real pretensions to the character, which she had assumed. At last, some allusion having been made to the ladies of Portsmouth Point, the choler of the sailor could no longer brook the indignity, and a general row was the consequence. The constables were called in, and the digputants in a posse were marched off to the watch-house, the Spanish grandee leading the way in all his gorgeous finery. On
arriving in the presence of the constable of the night, the culprits were called upon to disclose their real characters. The grandee unmasked, as did also the sailor. “Eh ! William, is it you ?" exclaimed the grandee, who was no other person than the Prince of Wales. “Eh ! George is it you," exclaimed the sailor, who was no other person than Prince William. The whole of the party burst into a loud laugh. The constable was confounded, when he saw before him the heir apparent to the throne, and the youthful hero, who had fought under Rodney. A guinea satisfied the scruples of the constable, and the royal youths retired to complete the frolics of the night.
Royalty was begining about this time to fall to a discount, and there were not minds wanting at this period, who used every effort to degrade royalty, and attempt to persuade the whole world, that Kings were the oppressors of mankind, and that monarchy was an establishment for the aggrandizement of a few, at the expense and to the detriment of the many.
That the actions of the Princes of the blood royal, contributed at these times, not a little to degrade royalty in the estimation of the people, is to be gathered from the records of the times; yet on the other hand, it must be admitted, that from the nature of things, the actions of Kings and Princes are subject to a publicity, from which the actions of private men are exempt from their multiplicity and obscurity. From the nature of man, which is imperfect, many actions, even of the best, are unfit to meet the public eye, and still more of them are liable to be misrepresented or misinterpreted.
No great difficulty occurred in painting in black characters, the actions of men subject to general observation ; and with the malignant disposition which had gone abroad, venial errors were converted into intentional and serious crimes, foibles were converted into vices of a deep dye, and even the innocent and unavoidable amusements of an idle hour, were held out as proofs of ignorance and imbecility.
The many-headed multitude propagated with avidity, or listened with attention; and the exaggeration so common in such
cases, assisted in colouring the picture. The temporary, but complete triumph of the enemies of the Princes, gave additional success to calumnies propagated with such uninterrupted effort, and unfeeling ferocity, so that the lower classes, who in former times, looked up to princes with respect and awe, now viewed them with that untempered anger and contempt, which the ignorant are so apt to feel for fallen greatness.
The conduct of George III. towards his sons, even when they were verging fast towards their majority, was that of parental severity carried to an extreme, and it must be admitted, that as far as the world has been made acquainted with the secrets of palaces and the habits of royalty, the inference must be drawn, that Kings are a most immoral and defective class of human beings. It would seem that Kings are almost always indifferent or hostile towards their children, and are thus deprived, perhaps, of the greatest happiness of which our nature is susceptible. The vices and crimes of Kings, public and private, may, perhaps, be traced greatly to the want of the moralizing influence of these best affections of our nature. Paul of Russia, hated his eldest son, and lavished all his affection upon the human monster, Constantine, his second son. George I. of England, cordially hated, abused, and illtreated his eldest son, George II., and the only excuse made for the brutal Monarch, was his suspicion that the son was not his own.
We might almost wish that the suspicion were well founded, as it might be some apology for his private assassination of Count Konigsmark, of whom he was jealous.
Francis I. of Austria exiled his eldest son to Bohemia, and George II. of England cordially hated his eldest son, and took every opportunity of evincing his disgust, whilst the son was by no means slow in exhibiting his hatred of his father. This son, who died suddenly as Prince of Wales, had a most sovereign contempt for his eldest child, afterwards George III., and always considered him to be what he turned out to be in life, an obstinate, wrong-headed, self-willed creature. Whether George III. were legitimately born, is a matter of great doubt,
as his mother was notoriously profligate; but certain it is that he possessed the family propensity of the father, hating the child. We need only refer to the chancery suit, in which it was decided that the father had grossly cheated the son in his minority, and he afterwards combined with the son to pay the award by cheating the people; nor need it be brought to our recollection, how the father and son lived at daggers drawn, until the death or insanity of the parent.
Kings are really, after all, very singular beings.
A high independence of character is only to be acquired by an extended intercourse with the world, and it must be acknowledged, that William IV. was indebted to that frankness and openness of disposition, which he evinced in his maturer years, to his having been emancipated at an early age from the trammels of that paternal control to which he would have been subjected, had he remained in one of the palaces of his father. The period when a young man of illustrious rank and princely fortune, attains his majority, is one of the most important epochs in his life. Our young nobility, educated for the most part at schools and universities, have, when they come of age, acquired a tolerable share of experience in the world. Their companions in the outset of life, are generally those with whom they have associated at school, and their previous habits of thinking and acting for themselves, which our public seminaries are so admirably calculated to teach, fit them to enter on the great stage of the world, with credit and advantage.
With the royal princes, however, the case was wholly different. They had been educated, indeed, under the ablest masters, and their progress in all the useful, and many of the ornamental branches of learning, reflected equal honor on the diligence of the teachers and the talents of the pupils ; but a knowledge of real life formed no part of the system of the education of the royal princes, and at the time when Prince William was entered upon the books of the navy, a more inexperienced youth in the ways of the world, never left his father's house.
He had passed his life, comparatively, in a state of seclusion and restraint, and even before his real character had had time to develope itself. The juvenile indiscretions, therefore, which he committed during his temporary residence with his family, and into which he was in a great degree led by the example of his elder brothers, must not be attributed to any innate viciousness of disposition, but to the almost irresistible temptation by which he was surrounded, and the facility which his elevated rank afforded him of gratifying to the utmost, any propensity to which his juvenility might impel him. We shall here purposely avoid the exposition of many of those acts of youthful indiscretion, which the caterers of the vitiated taste of the public collected and published at the time, and which were the result of that love of mischief, for which his Royal Highness was always distinguished. We can only further say in extenuation, that the princes cannot conceal their conduct as ordinary men may; they are, therefore, in a worse situation, than if their conduct were concealed, and their hearts laid open. Every act ought not to be attributed to a bad intention, and we should, therefore, carefully distinguish between those acts which may be the immediate result of juvenile folly, and those which take their origin in direct moral turpitude, and an absence of every principle of religion and virtue.
The dissipated life which Prince William led during his stay, was, perhaps, the cause of his Royal Father hurrying his departure, as he saw that the examples which he had before him, would, perhaps, unroot every virtuous principle within him, and eventually render him unfit for the performance of the arduous duties of the profession to which he had attached himself.
The channel fleet was at this time assembling at Portsmouth, and on the 19th of May, Admiral Sir Charles Hardy, Commander-in-Chief of the channel fleet, died at Portsmouth, where he was buried a few days after, with the usual state upon such occasions. Admiral Geary succeeded to the command, hoisting his flag on board the Victory, having under