Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 58.djvu/322

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Villiers
Villiers
314

College on 28 Dec. 1665 she gave birth to another son (see Fitzroy, George; Brodrick, Memorials of Merlon, 1885, p. 116). In February 1666 she had some rooms most luxuriously fitted at Hampton Court for her personal use (Harl. MS. 1658, f. 138); in the following October Harry Killigrew was banished the court for describing her as a wanton.

After the marriage of 'La Belle Stuart' to the Duke of Richmond in March 1667 [see Stuart or Stewart, Frances Teresa; and Stuart, Charles, third Duke of Richmond], Barbara's supremacy at court seemed more assured than ever. Louis XIV, who had hitherto been merely amused to hear the latest scandal about the ladies of the English court, now began to manifest a stronger interest in personages who, as he truly said, were become the most important in the country. The French ambassador, Colbert de Croisy, was accordingly specially commended for the attempts he had made to coax state secrets out of Lady Castlemaine. Every kind of attention was lavished upon the favourite, but De Croisy was not long in finding out that no dependence whatever could be placed upon her steady support, so completely was she dominated by the passion of the moment. In the meantime we have glimpses of her and the king 'mad at hunting a poor moth at the Duchess of Monmouth's' (13 June 1667), or buying jewellery, and 'making notes to the privy purse for money.' But with these pacific scenes alternate 'tiffs' of extravagant violence. On 12 July she called the king a fool to his face, à propos of the Duke of Buckingham's captivity, and her suspicious intimacy with Sir Harry Jermyn was the occasion of another quarrel, in the course of which she threatened that if the king refused to own the child she was expecting, she would bring it to Whitehall and dash its brains out (cf. Coxe MSS. xlv. 201). Eventually the king was 'pardoned' upon his knees for his well-founded suspicions, but not before the scandal (which is referred to in some coarse lines in Marvell's ' Last Instructions to a Painter about the Dutch War,' 1667) had obtained a wide circulation. The reconciliation was sealed by a gift of 5,600 ounces of plate from the jewel-house (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1667, p. 425). At the end of August in this year Lady Castlemaine and her faction had a large share in administering the coup de grâce to Clarendon's influence. She had candidly expressed her desire to see the minister's head on a stake (Carte, Ormonde, ii. 276) and when she heard he was finally taking his leave of the king, it is related that she rushed out in her smock into her aviary, overlooking Whitehall, and bandied jests with the courtiers upon the event (Pepys; cf. picture by E. M. Ward in Tate Gallery). A few weeks after this malign influence was removed from her path she had the satisfaction of making a bishop of her otherwise undistinguished great-uncle, Dr. Henry Glemham (consecrated at St. Asaph on 13 Oct. 1667). In February 1668 she retaliated upon the king for his growing weakness for actresses such as Moll Davis and Nell Gwyn, by forming a liaison with the tragic actor Charles Hart [q. v.] Next month, after the destruction of the city brothels by the London apprentices, an ingenious libel was levelled against her under the title 'The Poor Whores Petition to the most Splendid, Illustrious, Serene, and Eminent Lady of Pleasure, the Countess of Castlemaine . . . signed Madame Cresswell, Damaris Page' (cf. Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1667-8, p. 306), followed in a few days' time by a burlesque answer 'given at our closset in King Street, die Veneris, 24 April 1668.' By way of a solatium, the king at the close of this month gave her Berkshire House, St. James's. Two years later she disposed of the mansion, and sold the large garden for building plots, reserving only the south-west corner of the estate, on which, near the present Bridgewater House, was erected Cleveland House. The connection of the duchess with this quarter of the town survives in Cleveland Court, Cleveland Square, and Cleveland Row, St. James's.

The change of residence was an agreeable diversion for the countess, as in each case it implied a sale for the benefit of her cardpurse, and a refurnishing upon a scale of superlative luxury at the royal expense. On 19 Jan. 1669 she received what became an annual grant of 4,700l. from the post office. On 3 Aug. 1670 (not 1679, as given in Doyle's Official Baronage), she was created Baroness Nonsuch of Nonsuch Park, Surrey, Countess of Southampton, and Duchess of Cleveland, with remainder to her first and third natural sons, Charles and George 'Palmer' (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1670, p. 357). The title was conferred in consideration of her noble descent and of 'her own personal virtues' ('et decus et pretium recti,' remains the motto of the Fitzroy family). At the same time the king gave her the park and palace of Nonsuch, near Cheam. In addition to money presents from the king, one amounting to 30,000l., and grants of plate from the jewel-house (ib. Dom. 1668-9, p. 39), she obtained shortly after this date large grants for a term of years from the excise