Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 31.djvu/66

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she found little support either at court or in the public at large, the duchess was in the end altogether successful (see Forneron, p. 143). At the close of 1677 she fell seriously ill, but maintained herself in power, with the help of Barillon, the new French ambassador.

On the outbreak of the 'Popish plot' troubles the duchess was thoroughly frightened, and inclined to fly to France. Ou 25 April 1679 she was reflected on by name in both houses of parliament, but no further step was taken against her (Reresby, p. 168; cf. A. Sidney, Letters to H. Saville (1742), p. 46; but see Forneron, p. 177 note). By way of precaution, she hereupon made advances to Shaftesbury, and sought to ingratiate herself with Monmouth, with the help of her confidential servant, the notorious Mrs. Wall (cf. H. Sidney, Diary, ii. 22, and i. 190-1, and note. Forneron regards the supposed letters of the duchess to Monmouth in the British Museum as forgeries). At the same time she took special pains to secure the confidence and goodwill of the Prince of Orange (H. Sidney, Diary, i. 10, &c), and contrived to remain on good terms with the Duke of York (ib. i. 176, 189). Although she was never more unpopular, her influence over the king remained unbroken despite his periodical infidelities. In December 1679 the removal of herself and Sunderland from court was once more demanded by parliament, and she deemed it prudent to dismiss her catholic servants (ib. p. 217). There seems no doubt that she was brought to favour the Exclusion Bill as unavoidable in itself and likely to advance the interest of the Duke of Richmond (Burnet, ii. 259 seqq.; cf. Clarke, Life of James II, i. 645). Both she and Nell Gwyn were at Oxford during the parliament of 1681 (Luttrell, i. 71).

During the remainder of the reign she was not exposed to any serious rivalry (H. Sidney, ii. 226 seqq.) Her feeling of security is best shown by her visit to France from March to July 1682, which was at first represented by her enemies as her final withdrawal, and was attributed to the Duke of York's resentment. She had already, in November 1681, pressed for his return from Scotland, with a view to his settling on her a rent-charge of 5,000l. on the revenue of the post-office for fifty years, to be made up to him out of the excise, and, though the plan fell through, his recall followed (Macpherson, Original Papers, i. 129 seqq.; Life of James II, i. 722 seqq.) In France she not only benefited by the waters of Bourbon, where she spent part of May and June with Lady Pembroke, but also strengthened her position at Versailles. St. Simon describes her warm reception at the French court. She also paid a visit to her estate of Aubigny. On her return to England she found the king and the Duke of York on cordial terms, and contrived to bring about the reappointment of Sunderland as secretary of state (ib. i. 736). She sided with Rochester in his quarrel with Halifax (Renesby, pp. 272, 276). Nothing could now shake her sway over the enervated king, not even his jealousy of her intrigue with Philip de Vendome, whom Charles proved unable to drive out of the country, till Louis XIV, anxious for the maintenance of the duchess's ascendency, had brought about his return to France (Forneron; see Hansard, Parliamentary Debates, xxxiv. 627). Treated by both king and duke as a member of the royal family, she took part in negotiating the marriage of the Princess Anne with Prince George of Denmark. The erection of the estate of Aubigny into a duchy was granted her by Louis in letters patent of January 1684, and a year later the Duke of Richmond was naturalised in France, in order to be able to succeed to her estates and title there.

Her splendid apartment at the end of the gallery at Whitehall (Evelyn, ii. 314, 419-420; cf. H. Sidney, I. 208) was, according to Evelyn, 'twice or thrice pull'd down and rebuilt to satisfy her prodigal and expensive pleasures;' it was ultimately burnt down, with all the buildings adjoining, 9 April 1691 (Evelyn, iii. 93; cf. Autobiography of Sir J. Bramston, Camden Soc, 1845, p. 365). When the post-office job failed, she had been allowed 10,000l. a quarter out of the privy purse (Macpherson, Original Papers, i. 133); but the sums paid to her varied, and in 1681 amounted to the enormous total of 136,668l. None of the king's other mistresses appear to have approached her in rapacity (see J. Y. Akerman, Secret Services of Charles II and James II, 1679-88, Camden Soc., 1851, and the comments of Forneron).

During Charles's fatal illness she was excluded from the royal chamber; but, according to Barillon (cf. C. J. Fox, History of the Reign of James II, edit. 1808, Appendix, p. xii), it was she who informed him of the king's membership of the church of Rome, and thus obtained for him the last consolations of his faith. She is said to have suspected James of having poisoned his brother (ib. p. 67 and note; cf. Hallam, Constitutional Hist. 10th edit, ii. 468 note). Immediately, however, after the death of Charles II she was visited by James, and received assurances of protection from both him and Louis XIV. A sum exceeding 12,000/., probably due to her on her pension, was at once paid. But, notwithstanding the courtesies of the king and the