Born: Julian, Roman emperor, 331, Constantinople; James Gregory, inventor of the reflecting-telescope, 1638, Aberdeen; Colley Cibber, dramatist, 1671, London.
Died: Caliph Omar, assassinated at Jerusalem, 644; Pope Innocent VII, 1406; Sir John Falstaff, English knight, 1460, Norwich; Prince Henry, son of James I of England, 1612; Gustavus Adolphus, king of Sweden, killed at battle of Lutzen, 1632; John IV, the Fortunate, king of Portugal, 1656; Bernard de Jussieu, distinguished botanist, 1777, Paris; Louis Joseph Philip, Duke of Orleans, guillotined at Paris, 1793; Princess Charlotte of England, daughter of George IV, 1817, Claremont.
Feast Day: St. Iltntus, abbot. St. Leonard, hermit and confessor, 6th century. St. Winoc, abbot, 8th century.
Napoleon, than whom there could be no more capable judge, placed Gustavus Adolphus among the eight great captains of the world, a list of warriors which commenced with Alexander and ended with himself. With small means Gustavus was called to do much, and genius eked out the deficiency. By the sternest discipline, by original organisation, tactics, and strategy, he made a little host perform the service of a mighty one, and in the process reconstructed the art of war. Medieval routine vanished under his blows, and modern military science may be said to date from his practice.
He was born in 1594, and, ere the was seventeen, he inherited the Swedish throne by the death of his father, Charles IX. There was a law which pronounced the sovereign a minor until he had attained his twenty-fourth year, but Gustavus had shewn so many signs of manliness, that it was set aside in his favour. It is told of Charles IX., that when abandoning in council designs to which he felt himself unequal, he would, as if in a spirit of prescience, lay his hand on the fair head of his boy Gustavus, and say: ' He will do it; he will!
Into an inheritance of trouble the young man entered. Denmark, Russia, and Poland were at active enmity with Sweden. First, he beat off the Danes; then he attacked the Russians, and took from them all the territory by which they had access to the Baltic. He next invaded Poland, with which he carried on an eight years' war, and closed the contest with the acquisition of a great part of Livonia, and the town of Riga. In these conflicts he acquired a rare stock of experience, and trained an army of veterans to his hand. Meanwhile, his home-government was well conducted by his chancellor or prime minister, the sage Oxenstiern -he who wrote to his son when perplexed in some diplomatic entanglement:
You do not know yet, my son, with how little wisdom mankind is governed.
Gustavus once said to his minister:
You are too phlegmatic, and if somewhat of my heat did not mingle with your phlegm, my affairs would not succeed so well as they do;
to which Oxenstiern answered:
Sire, if my phlegm did not mingle some coolness with your heat, your affairs would not be so prosperous as they are;
whereon both laughed heartily. A temper, which on provocation rose to fury, was one of the characteristics of Gustavus. In his wrath against pillage by his followers, it is related that he dragged forth a delinquent soldier by the hair of his head, exclaiming:
It is better that I should punish thee, than that God should punish thee, and me, and all of us on thy account;
and ordered him off to instant execution. His proneness to anger he confessed. All commanders, he said, had their weaknesses; such a one his drunkenness; such a one his avarice; his own was choler, and he prayed men to forgive him.
That most dreadful war, which lasted for thirty years, from 1618 to 1648, and devastated and depopulated Germany, was raging. Tilly, and the imperial troops, were committing frightful atrocities on the Protestants of Bohemia. Austria, moreover, had menaced and insulted Sweden. Gustavus was not only a Protestant, but a zealous one, and, naturally, the eyes of suffering Protestantism turned to him for help, whose fame as a warrior filled Europe. After fair consideration he determined to intervene, and on the 29th of May 1630, when all his measures were arranged, he appeared in the Diet at Stockholm, to bid its members farewell.
Taking his daughter, Christina, in his arms, he presented her as their future queen, amidst the sobs and tears of the assembly. 'Not lightly, or wantonly,' he said:
I am about to involve myself and you in this new and dangerous war; God is my witness that I do not fight to gratify my ambition. The emperor has wronged me most shamefully in the person of my ambassador; he has supported my enemies, persecuted my friends and brethren, trampled my religion in the dust, and even stretched his revengeful arm against my crown. The oppressed states of Germany call loudly for aid, which, by God's help, we will give them. I am fully sensible of the dangers to which my life will be exposed. I have never shrunk from dangers, nor is it likely that I shall escape then all. Hitherto, Providence has wonder-fully protected me, but I shall at last fall in defence of my country.
Then adjuring all to do their duties in his absence, he bade them 'a sincere -it may be-an eternal farewell.'
Gustavus led over to Germany an army of 15,000 men, in which were many volunteers from Scotland, and among them David Leslie, one of his ablest officers-he whom Cromwell, in after-years, miraculously defeated at Dunbar. As soon as Gustavus got to work, the fortune of the cause he had espoused began to mend. The courtiers of Vienna consoled themselves in saying, he was a snow-man, and would surely melt as he advanced southwards! Tilly, his antagonist-the ugly, little, Jesuit-turned soldier, and esteemed the first general of his age-took his measures more wisely: not to be beaten by Gustavus, he said, was as creditable as to be victorious over other commanders.
Tilly soon furnished evidence of the truth of his estimate. Gustavus carried all before him in north Germany, and on the 7th of September 1631, he met Tilly himself before Leipsic, and in a hard-fought field utterly defeated him. A second time, in April 1632, he encountered Tilly on the borders of Bavaria, and again defeated him. In this battle Tilly lost his life by a cannon-ball, which broke his thigh.
The Germans were astonished at the strict discipline which distinguished the Swedish army. All disorders were punished with the utmost severity, particularly impiety, theft, gambling, and duelling. Every regiment assembled round its chaplain for morning and evening prayer. The hardships of the war he shared with his soldiers. The peasants of Bavaria would long tell the tale, how, as he forced them to drag his artillery, he would come among them with kind words, and instructions how to place the lever, accompanied by occasional florins. His attention to trifles, his flee intercourse with his men, he used to defend in saying:
Cities are not taken by keeping in tents; as boys, in the absence of the schoolmaster, shut their books; so my troops, without my presence, would slacken their blows.
In all his actions, he moved under profound religious feeling. 'Pray constantly: praying hard is fighting hard,' was his favourite appeal to his soldiers. 'You may win salvation under my command, but hardly riches,' was his encouragement to his officers. He was often wounded, for he exposed himself freely in battle, and by no entreaty could he be persuaded to be more careful. 'My hour,' he would say, 'is written in heaven, and cannot be reversed on earth.'
Tilly being gone, Wallenstein was appointed to command the Imperialists. The opposing armies met on the field of Lützen, and on the 6th of November 1632, Gustavus opened the battle. In the morning, he knelt in front of his lines and offered up a prayer. Then he gave out Luther's Hymn, and a well-known hymn, said to be his own, beginning:
not, thou little chosen band.
'God with us!' was the battle-word. All being ready, he cried aloud: 'Now, in God's name, let us at them! Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, let us fight for the honour of thy holy name!' and dashed at the enemy. A pistol-shot broke his arm. 'It is nothing: follow me!' he exclaimed; but his strength failing, he turned his horse's head, and muttered to the Duke of Lauenburg by his side: 'Cousin, take me hence, for I am wounded.' As he turned, an Austrian trooper shouted:
Art thou here? I have long sought for thee!
and discharged his carbine into the king's shoulder. Gustavus fell from his horse, with the last words, 'My God!' The tidings flew through the army that the king was slain; that he was taken prisoner; and in revenge and in despair his men fought, as Schiller says, with the grim fury of lions:
until victory crowned the day. Defaced with wounds, trodden under feet of horses, the body of Gustavus was drawn from beneath a heap of slain, and laid, amid weeping, with his fathers in Sweden. The neighbour-hood of the place where he fell is marked to this day by a porphyritic boulder, with the simple inscription, 'G. A.-1632.
Thus died Gustavus Adolphus, in his thirty-eighth year, and in the third of his championship of Protestantism. His success had begun to awaken alarms among his allies, who feared in him a possible Protestant emperor; yet of this ambition he gave no signs. 'The devil,' he told his chaplain, who found him reading his Bible- 'the devil is very near at hand to those who are accountable to none but God for their actions.'
What might be his dreams we can never know, but he has left one of the noblest and purest memories in history. Had he lived, it is likely he would have ended quickly that awful war which afflicted Germany for sixteen years after him. Oxenstiern lived to look after the interests of Sweden, and at the peace succeeded in annexing the Baltic province of Pomerania, held by Sweden until 1815, when it was ceded to Prussia.
DEATH OF THE PRINCESS CHARLOTTE
The sensation excited throughout the, country by this melancholy event was of no ordinary description, and even at the present day it is still vividly remembered. It was indeed a most unexpected blow, the shining virtues, as well as the youth and beauty of the deceased, exciting an amount of affectionate commiseration, such as probably had never before attended the death of any royal personage in England. A parallel to the feeling thus excited has only appeared in recent years on the occasion of the demise of the consort of our beloved sovereign-the good Prince Albert.
In the Princess Charlotte, the whole hopes of the nation were centered. The only child of the Prince Regent and Caroline of Brunswick, she was regarded as the sole security for the lineal trans-mission to posterity of the British sceptre, her uncles, the Dukes of Clarence, Kent, Cumberland, and Cambridge being then all unmarried.
Well-grounded fears were entertained that through her death the inheritance of the crown might pass from the reigning family, and devolve on a foreign and despotic dynasty. These apprehensions were dispelled by the subsequent marriage of the Duke of Kent, and the birth of the Princess Victoria, who, in her actual occupancy of the throne, has realised all the expectations which the nation had been led to entertain from the anticipated accession of her cousin.
In May 1816, the Princess Charlotte was married to Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg. Their union had been the result of mutual attachment, not of political expediency, and in the calm tranquillity of domestic life, they enjoyed a degree of happiness such as has not often been the lot of royal personages. The princess's approaching confinement was looked forward to by the nation with affectionate interest, but without the least apprehensions as to the result. Early in the morning of Tuesday the 4th of November, she was taken ill, and expresses were sent off to the great officers of state, including the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Lord Chancellor, who immediately attended.
Everything seemed to go on favourably till the evening of the following day (Wednesday), when at nine o'clock the princess was delivered of a still-born child. This melancholy circumstance, however, did not appear to affect the princess so seriously as to give any cause for alarm, and about midnight it was deemed expedient to leave her to repose, and the attentions of the nurse, Mrs. Griffiths. Ere half an hour elapsed, the latter observed such an alarming change in her patient, that she at once summoned Prince Leopold and the medical attendants, who hurried to the chamber. The princess became rapidly worse, and in about two hours expired.
After the grief of the nation had somewhat subsided, the feeling of sorrow was succeeded by one of anger. It was said that the medical attendants of the princess had mismanaged the case, and a carelessness and neglect, it was affirmed, had been shewn which would have been scandalous had the fate of the humblest peasant-woman been concerned. Extreme caution must be observed in dealing with these popular reports, considering the general propensity in human nature to slander, and the tendency to find in the deaths of eminent personages food for excitement and marvel. There really appears to have been some blundering in the case, but that this was the occasion of the princess's death, we have no warrant for believing. It is a curious circumstance, that Sir Richard Croft, the physician against whom the public odium was chiefly directed, committed suicide ere many months had elapsed.
A SAILOR'S LETTER
When Louis XVIII, under the title of the Count de Lille, was obliged to quit the continent after the peace of Tilsit, and take refuge in England, he landed at Yarmouth from the Swedish frigate, Freya, and was rowed ashore by a boat's crew from H.M.S. Majestic. Pleased with the attention shewn him, the royal exile left fifteen guineas as a guerdon to the men to drink his health. The honest tars, in obedience to an order which had formerly been issued on the subject of taking money from strangers, refused to avail themselves of this munificence. The present case, however, being rather an exceptional one, the men held 'a talk' on the matter, when they resolved to transmit to Admiral Russell the letter, of which the following is a literal copy:
'MAJESTIC, 6th day of November 1807
PLEASE YOUR HONOUR,
We holded a talk about that there £15 that was sent us, and hope no offence, your honour. We don't like to take it, because, as how, we knows fast enuff, that it was the true king of France that went with your honour in the boat, and that he and our own noble king, God bless 'em both, and give every one his right, is good friends now; and besides that, your honour gived an order, long ago, not to take any money from no body, and we never did take none; and Mr. Leneve, that steered your honour and that there king, says he won't have no hand in it, and so does Andrew Young, the proper coxen; and we hopes no offence-so we all, one and all, begs not to take it at all. So no more at present
From your honour's dutiful servants.'
(SIGNED) 'Andrew Young, Coxen,; James Mann; Lewis Bryan; James Lord; James Hood; W. Edwards; Jan. Holshaw; Thomas Laurie; Thomas Siminers; Thomas Kesane; Simon Duft; W. Fairclough; John Cherchil; Thomas Laurence; Jacob Gabriel; William Muzzy.
How the admiral responded to this communication, we are not informed, but it is to be hoped that the worthy tars were eventually permitted to share among them the gift from Louis. As a specimen of blunt and unadorned honesty, the above composition is perhaps unrivalled.
THE LITTLECOTE LEGEND
Aubrey appears to have been the first to put into circulation a romantic story of Elizabeth's time regarding Littlecote Hall, in Wiltshire, which at that period was acquired by the Lord Chief-Justice Popham, in the possession of whose family it has since remained. The account given by Aubrey states that Dayrell, the former proprietor, called a midwife, blindfolded, to his house one night, by whom one of his serving-women was delivered of a child, which she saw him immediately after throw upon the fire; that the poor woman was afterwards able to discover and identify the house where this horrid act had been committed; and that Dayrell, being tried for murder before Chief-Justice Popham, only saved his life by giving Littlecote, and money besides, to the judge as a bribe.
When Lord Webb Seymour was living in Edinburgh, in the early years of the present century, he communicated a traditionary version of this story to Sir Walter Scott, who wrought up a sketch of it as a ballad in his romance of Rokeby, and printed it in full in the notes to that poem. Though Lord Webb's story has thus been brought well into notice, we are induced to have it repeated here.
It was on a dark rainy night in November, that an old midwife sat musing by her cottage-fireside, when on a sudden she was startled by a loud knocking at the door. On opening it, she found a horseman, who told her that her assistance was required immediately by a person of rank, and that she should be handsomely rewarded; but that there were reasons for keeping the affair a strict secret, and, therefore, she must submit to be blind-folded, and to be conducted in that condition to the bedchamber of the lady. With some hesitation the midwife consented; the horseman bound her eyes, and placed her on a pillion behind him.
After proceeding in silence many miles through rough and dirty lanes, they stopped, and the mid-wife was led into a house, which, from the length of her walk through the apartments, as well as the sounds about her, she discovered to be the seat of wealth and power. When the bandage was removed from her eyes, she found herself in a bedchamber, in which were the lady on whose account she had been sent for, and a man of a haughty and ferocious aspect.
The lady was delivered of a fine boy. Immediately the man commanded the midwife to give him the child, and, catching it from her, he hurried across the room, and threw it on the back of the fire that was blazing in the chimney. The child, however, was strong, and by its struggles rolled itself upon the hearth, when the ruffian again seized it with fury, and, in spite of the intercession of the midwife, and the more piteous entreaties of the mother, thrust it under the grate, and, raking the live coals upon it, soon put an end to its life.
The midwife, after spending some time in affording all the relief in her power to the wretched mother, was told that she must be gone. Her former conductor appeared, who again bound her eyes, and conveyed her behind him to her own home: he then paid her handsomely, and departed.
The midwife was strongly agitated by the horrors of the preceding night, and she immediately made a deposition of the facts before a magistrate. Two circumstances afforded hopes of detecting the house in which the crime had been committed: one was, that the midwife, as she sat by the bedside, had, with a view to discover the place, cut out a piece of the bed curtain, and sewn it in again; the other was, that as she had descended the staircase, she had counted the steps.
Some suspicions fell upon one Darrell, at that time the proprietor of Littlecote House and the domain around it. The house was examined, and identified by the midwife, and Darrell was tried at Salisbury for the murder. By corrupting his judge, he escaped the sentence of the law; but broke his neck by a fall from his horse while hunting, in a few months after.
The place where this happened is still known by the 'name of Darrell's Stile-a spot to be dreaded by the peasant whom the shades of evening have overtaken on his way.
Scott further added a legend to much the same purport, which was current in Edinburgh in his childhood. In this case, however, it was a clergyman who was brought blindfolded to the house, the object being to have spiritual consolation administered to a lady newly delivered of an infant. Having performed his part, he was rewarded, enjoined to secrecy on pain of death, and hurried off, but in descending the stair, heard the report of a pistol, and the tragedy is presumed to have been completed when he learned next morning that the house of a family of condition, at the head of the Canongate, had been totally consumed by fire during the night, involving the death of the daughter of the proprietor, 'a young lady eminent for beauty and accomplishments.'
After many years, feeling uneasy about the secret, he imparted it to some of his brethren, and it thus acquired a certain degree of publicity. ' The divine, however,' says Scott, ' had been long dead, and the story in some degree forgotten, when a fire broke out again on the very same spot where the house of _____ had formerly stood, and which was now occupied by buildings of an inferior description. When the flames were at their height, the tumult, which usually attends such a scene, was suddenly suspended by an unexpected apparition. A beautiful female, in a night-dress extremely rich, but at least half a century old, appeared in the very midst of the fire, and uttered these tremendous words in her vernacular idiom:
Anes burned, twice burned, the third time I'll scare ye all!
The narrator adds:
The belief in this story was formerly so strong, that, on a fire breaking out, and seeming to approach the fatal spot, there was a good deal of anxiety testified lest the apparition should make good her denunciation.
A correspondent of Notes and Queries (April 10, 1858), affirms that this story was current in Edinburgh before the childhood of Sir Walter Scott, and was generally credited, at least as regards the murder part of it. He mentions a person acquainted with Edinburgh from 1743, who used to tell the tale, and point out the site of the house. The present writer knew a lady older than Scott, who had heard the story as a nursery one in her young days, and she offered to point out to him the site of the burned house-which, however, death unexpectedly prevented her from doing. Keeping in view Scott's narration, which assigns the head of the Canongate as the place, it is remarkable that a great fire did happen there at the end of the seventeenth century, and the lofty buildings now on the spot date from that time.
It is not calculated to support the credit of the Littlecote legend, that there is another of the same kind localised in Edinburgh. Nor is this all.
A similar tale is told by Sir Nathaniel Wraxall, in which an Irish physician, named Ogilvie, resident at Rome about 1743, is represented as taken with eyes bandaged to a house in the country, where he was called upon to bleed to death a young lady who had dishonoured her family-the family proving afterwards to be that of the Duke de Bracciano. This story was communicated to Wraxall by the celebrated Lady Hamilton, and to support its credibility he relates another incident, of the verity of which he had been assured at Vienna and other German cities.
About the year 1774, some persons came to the house of the Strasburg executioner, and engaged him to accompany them on a private professional excursion across the frontier, the object being to put to death a person of high rank. 'They particularly enjoined him to bring the sword with which he was accustomed, in the discharge of his ordinary functions, to behead malefactors. Being placed in a carriage with his conductors, he passed the bridge over the river, to Kehl, the first town on the eastern bank of the Rhine; where they acquainted him that he had a considerable journey to perform, the object of which must be carefully concealed, as the person intended to be put to death was an individual of great distinction. They added that he must not oppose their taking the proper precautions to prevent his knowing the place to which he was conveyed. He acquiesced, and allowed them to hoodwink him.
On the second day, they arrived at a moated castle, the draw-bridge of which being lowered, they drove into the court. After waiting a considerable time, he was then conducted into a spacious hall, where stood a scaffold hung with black cloth, and in the centre was placed a stool or chair. A female shortly made her appearance, habited in deep mourning, her face wholly concealed by a veil. She was led by two persons, who, when she was seated, having first tied her hands, next fastened her legs with cords. As far as he could form any judgment from her general figure, he considered her to have passed the period of youth. Not a word was uttered; neither did she utter any complaints, or attempt any resistance. When all the preparations for her execution were completed, on a signal given he unsheathed the instrument of punishment; and her head being forcibly held up by the hair, he severed it at a single stroke from her body. Without allowing him to remain more than a few minutes, he was then handsomely rewarded, conducted back to Kehl by the same persons who had brought him to the place, and set down at the end of the bridge leading to Strasburg.
I have heard the question frequently agitated, during my residence in Germany, and many different opinions stated, relative to the lady thus asserted to have been put to death. The most generally adopted belief rested on the Princess of Tour and Taxis, Augusta Elizabeth, daughter of Charles Alexander, Prince of Wirtemberg. She had been married, at a very early period of life, to Charles Anselm, Prince of Tour and Taxis.
Whether it proceeded from mutual incompatibility of character, or, as was commonly pretended, from the princess's intractable and ferocious disposition, the marriage proved eminently unfortunate in its results. She was accused of having repeatedly attempted to take away her husband's life, particularly while they were walking together near the castle of Donau-Stauff, on the high bank over-hanging the Danube, when she endeavoured to precipitate him into the river. It is certain, that about the year 1773 or 1774, a final separation took place between them, at the prince's solicitation.
The reigning Duke of Wirtemberg, her brother, to whose custody she was consigned, caused her to be closely immured in a castle within his own dominions, where she was strictly guarded, no access being allowed to her. Of the last-mentioned fact, there is little doubt; but it may he considered as much more problematical, whether she was the person pit to death by the executioner of Strasburg. I dined in the autumn of the year 1778 with the Prince of Tour and Taxis, at his castle or seat of Donau-Stauff, near the northern bank of the Danube, a few miles from the city of Ratisbon. He was then about forty-five years of age, and his wife was understood to be in confinement. I believe that her decease was not formally announced as having taken place, till many years subsequent to 1778; but this circumstance by no means militates against the possibility of her having suffered by a more summary process, if her conduct had exposed her to merit it; and if it was thought proper to inflict upon her capital punishment. The private annals of the great houses and sovereigns of the Germanic empire, if they were divulged, would furnish numerous instances of similar severity exercised in their own families during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.