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Denman, on the 11th of April, presented, in the Court of Chancery their appointments as Attorney General and Solicitor General to the queen. The Lord Chancellor immediately accepted them, saying, that "he would consult no views, and regard no considerations in the matter, except such as were purely professional. The queen, on learning that her name was expunged from the liturgy, wrote to Lord Liverpool demanding the insertion of her name in the liturgy, and announcing her intention to return to England. Heavy bets had been made that she would not come; and Lord Eldon was of the opinion that she would not, unless she was insane. Mr. Brougham is stated to have expressed a wish that he might be spared the presence of that “ devil,” for she had not ceased to annoy him for six months. She soon fulfilled her threat, and on the 1st of June had reached St. Omers, in France. Here she was met by Lord Hutchinson, who was authorized by the ministry to offer her an annuity of £50,000 a year, on condition of her abandoning her title of queen and every other title connected with the British royal family, and consenting to remain abroad. This adjustment, by the advice of Mr. Brougham, she refused, and immediately went to Calais with Mr. Brougham. From thence they sailed to Dover; and on the evening of the 6th of June, her party arrived in London, the queen going to the house of Alderman Sir Matthew Wood, who had accompanied her from Italy.?
The same evening the Prime Minister, the Earl of Liverpool, presented to the House of Lords a message from the king, communicating certain papers, contained in a green bag, respecting the conduct of the queen since her departure from the kingdom, and asking the House to give them their immediate and serious attention, and to take action thereon. The Earl of Liverpool laid these results of the Milan Commission upon the table; and, soon after, the message and accompanying papers were referred to a secret committee of fifteen peers appointed by ballot. It is interesting to note that the Marquis of Lansdowne and Lord Erskine declined acting on this committee, and that their places were filled by the Earl of Hardwicke and Lord Ellenborough. Some fruitless attempts were made at compromise, carried on, on the part of the queen, by Mr. Brougham and Mr. Denman, during the pendency
1 Knight's Popular History of England, viii. 165. 3 Knight, viii. 165, 166; Twiss's Life of Lord Eldon, ii. 365–370.
of which the Secret Committee had forborne to meet. By the exertions of Mr. Wilberforce, some resolutions were carried through the House of Commons, recommending to the queen to yield to a compromise, and declaring that she would, by that course, in no way be understood to acknowledge any guilt on her part. This last resort failed, and it became clear that the ministry would have to proceed with the measures against her.
Mr. Perceval, who had once most effectually supported the queen when her cause was associated with that of the Tory party, and when George IV. was surrounded with Whig friends and advisers, had been assassinated in May, 1812. Mr. Canning, who had been for many years an intimate friend of the queen's, and who professed to believe her innocent, was now a member of the government; but, instead of using his influence to stay the determination to which his government had, at length, reluctantly come, to gratify the desire of the king for a divorce, satisfied himself with abstaining from any share in the proceedings against her. As soon as all hopes of an amicable adjustment were extinguished by the failure of Mr. Wilberforce's address, he tendered his resignation to the king; but, being commanded to retain his office, and at the same time permitted to remain silent on the subject of the queen, he withdrew to the continent, and remained there until after her prosecution had been abandoned. Her most powerful friend thus rendered the queen merely the inefficient assistance of simply
1 Twiss, ii. 373–377. However probable it may at first appear, it would be hardly justifiable to attribute the refusal of any compromise by the queen to any selfish advice from Mr. Brougham dictated by his desire to aggrandize himself in a cause célèbre. “She seems to have been advised,” writes the Earl of Dudley (Letters, pp. 255, 256), “ by persons that are resolved to play the deepest possible game, and care little to what risk they expose her, provided they have a chance of turning out the government, or, perhaps, of overthrowing the monarchy. I do not believe that it is Brougham's doing. I think too well of him to suppose that he would give such bad advice to his client for the mere chance of doing mischief.” The popular ballad entirely exonerates Mr. Brougham :
“The Queen began to make a talk:
Quoth Brougham, 'She sha'n't come over;'
Brougham lagging came
And cried, 'Great dame,
But Mat prevails :
She fills her sails
discountenancing all measures against her. The queen insisted, above all, on the retention of her name in the liturgy. As has been said, the meeting of the Secret Committee of the Lords had been postponed. On the 26th of June, a petition from the queen was presented by Lord Dacre, — she having in vain solicited her old friend, the Lord Chancellor, to bring it before the House, – protesting against a secret inquiry into her conduct; but, in case this unconstitutional course should be insisted on, entreating to be heard by her counsel, that time enough might be allowed her in which to summon witnesses in her defence from the continent. Mr. Brougham and Mr. Denman were permitted to speak in behalf of this most reasonable request; they asked for a delay of two months, urging their ignorance of the character of the accusing witnesses, and their desire to prepare themselves for an effective cross-examination.
Lord Grey, on the 27th of June, moved to discontinue the order for the meeting of the Secret Committee, but the motion was negatived, and, on the 4th of July, the Secret Committee reported in favor of a solemn inquiry into the conduct of the queen by a legislative proceeding, owing to the very serious nature of the evidence against her, contained in the documents which had been laid before them. The next day, Lord Dacre presented a petition from the queen, representing herself as prepared to defend herself against the report, and praying for the immediate admission of her counsel to be heard, in regard to various matters touching her future defence; but leave was refused. The Earl of Liverpool then proposed the famous “ Bill of Pains and Penalties,” to deprive her of her title and rights as queen consort, and to dissolve the marriage between the king and her ; alleging that, in the year 1814, she had formed a degrading intimacy in Italy, with a low-born foreigner in her service, named Bartolomeo Bergami; that she had bestowed on him extraordinary marks of favor and distinction, and had lived in adulterous intercourse with him in the various countries which she had since visited. The bill was read a first time. Lord Dacre, on the 6th of July, presented another petition from the queen, protesting against the course pursued against her in the House of Lords, where she was unrepresented by counsel, and against the action of the Secret Committee, and expressing her anxiety to have her counsel admitted to state her claims at the bar of the House. Mr. Brougham and Mr. Denman were accordingly called in, being instructed to confine themselves to the “mode and manner of proceeding to be had on the bill.” They expressed their anxious wish that the queen might be dealt with as if she were the meanest subject, and that she might have the advantage of a trial by jury, and that she should be furnished with a list of the numerous witnesses summoned to appear against her, and with a particular specification of the offences with which she was charged. Mr. Brougham attempted to break through the restriction imposed, and to indulge in some general declamation, but was at length sharply checked by Lord Eldon. On the 10th of July, the second reading of the bill was fixed for the 17th of August; and, on the 11th, Lord Auckland presented a petition, praying that a list of witnesses might be granted to her majesty's Attorney General, Mr. Brougham. This petition was referred to a committee. Lord Erskine moved, on the 14th, that her majesty's legal advisers should be forthwith furnished with the list prayed for, but the motion was negatived. On the 24th, another petition came from the queen, through Lord Erskine, conveying her regret at being, together with her legal advisers, " in total ignorance as to the time or place to which the charges may relate, or the persons by whose testimony the allegations in the bill are intended to be supported;' and desiring a specification of the place or places in which the criminal acts were charged to have been committed, to prevent the necessity of bringing witnesses from all the places she had visited during a six years' absence; and further desiring that her counsel might be heard in support of this request. No part of this petition was granted by the Lords. The privilege of a list of witnesses, though allowed in no other criminal proceeding, the queen would have enjoyed, if she had been proceeded against for high treason ; but her imputed crime technically fell short of that, her alleged paramour being a foreigner, and the supposed adulterous intercourse having taken place out of the realm. On the 17th of August, at the meeting according to adjournment, the Duke of Leinster moved that the order of the day for the second reading of the bill be rescinded. The motion was negatived. On an order that counsel should be called in, there appeared as eminent an array of counsel as ever graced a trial. There were, on the
1 Sir H. L. Bulwer, Historical Characters, vol. ii.
part of the king, the Attorney General, Sir Robert Gifford, afterwards Lord Gifford; the Solicitor General, Sir John S. Copley, afterwards Lord Lyndhurst; the king's advocate, Sir Charles Robinson, afterwards chief judge of the Admiralty Court; Mr. James Parke, afterwards Lord Wensleydale ; and Dr. Addams a civilian. Mr. Brougham practically, though not technically, took the lead in the queen’s defence, and had associated with him Mr. Denman, from 1832 to 1850 Lord Chief Justice of the King's Bench, and created Lord Denman in 1834; Dr. Lushington, who has been Judge of the High Court of Admiralty since 1839; Mr. John Williams, who had practised on the northern circuit with Mr. Brougham, and had been selected by him and Mr. Denman, on account of his great merits, afterwards obtaining a seat in the Court of King's Bench; Mr. Tindal, afterwards Chief Justice of the Common Pleas; and Mr. Thomas Wilde, who became Lord Chancellor, and Lord Truro in 1850.
With reason has it been said, that, “ Looking at the importance of the question, and the evil consequences that might result from it, with the array of combatants that joined in the fight, it might truly be called the battle of giants. Nearly the whole talent of the bar was engaged, and of the eleven counsel who appeared, six on one side and five on the other, no less than ten were afterwards elevated to high legal distinction.” 1
The Attorney General acted by order of the House, and under instructions from the Secretary of State. Mr. Brougham and Mr. Denman, in behalf of the queen, discussed at great length, with the king's counsel, the form in which the proceeding was instituted, together with the detail and principle of the bill; the queen's counsel taking up the subject with great warmth, and maintaining that an impeachment was the course which should have been adopted. As adultery committed by the queen consort with a foreigner abroad, not only fell short of high treason, but was not even a cognizable offence, the king's counsel combated the position taken by Mr. Brougham and his associate, on the ground that an impeachment, which would be inefficient to obtain the objects of the bill, could not be maintained, except for a breach of the law. The alleged generality and vagueness of the charge, the retrospective character of the bill, the expediency of the process, owing to the probable effect upon the public of the
1 Foss, ix, 196.