Page:English Caricaturists and Graphic Humourists of the nineteenth century.djvu/133

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
71
THE MILAN COMMISSION.

period, the satirists on the popular side gave credit to the prince and his advisers for being members of a secret conspiracy for compassing the ruin of the erring and unfortunate woman.

Now what was the "evidence" to which the corpulent Regent is made to refer in the sketch before us? It was not of course evidence, but rumour; and rumour said the strangest things of the Princess Caroline. It associated her name with that of a courier,—a low Italian, named Bartolomeo Bergami; it said that she had enriched and ennobled this man and other members of his family; procured for him a barony in Sicily; decorated him with several orders of knighthood; and asserted in the plainest terms that she was living with him in a state of open and notorious adultery. These reports rendered it necessary to ascertain on what foundation they rested, and the result was that in 1818, Mr. Cooke, of the Chancery Bar, and Mr. Powell, a solicitor, were despatched into Germany and Italy to collect evidence with respect to her conduct. This inquiry, which is generally known as the "Milan Commission," seemed certainly preferable to an investigation of a more public and notorious character; and upon the evidence these gentlemen obtained was founded the "Bill of Pains and Penalties," which we shall presently have to consider.

1820.It is quite clear that the ministers of 1820 were strongly averse to the introduction of the "Bill of Pains and Penalties" which is now known to us as the "Trial of Queen Caroline." The whole odium indeed of the proceedings rested upon them at the time; but we have no reason to doubt the statement of Mr. Charles Greville, under date of 20th February, 1820, that they had offered to resign, "because the king would not hear reason." It seems at any rate tolerably certain that, although they brought forward the "Bill of Pains and Penalties" under pressure of the Crown, they did not do so until they had well-nigh exhausted every effort short of actual resignation (this dignified position they did not take) to avoid it. Mr. Wade tells us that "their first indiscretion consisted in commencing hostilities against the queen by the omission of her name in the liturgy, thereby provoking her claim to legal