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THE PALL MALL MURDER OF 1682.
THE curiosity of visitors to Westminster Abbey must often have been excited by a certain tomb in the south aisle of the nave. The tablet above records that it contains the body of Thomas Thynne of Longleat, who was barbarously murdered on the 12th of February 1682. Lower down is a vivid representation of the brutal transaction : & man, apparently of high rank, is being driven in a coach drawn by a pair of excited horses ; there are two footmen at the back; the coachman is making ineffectual attempts to restrain the terror of the horses, while with his whip he is urging them forward to flight. Three horsemen are in close proximity to the coach ; one has just passed it, while another, who is evidently their leader, has peremptorily called upon the driver to halt. The third, having pointed his musquetoon in at the coach window, is discharging its contents full into the breast of the terrified occupant. The details of the sculpture are remarkable ; the pistols, swords, dress, jabots and boots of the riders are striking in finish; the faces and attitudes of the victim and his three attendants portray the suddenness of their terror, and the horses, if conventional, at any rate testify the panic which they are sharing. In these particulars the sculptor
vivos duxit de marmore vultus.
One thing is wanting to the tomb; under the present inscription on the tablet is a palpable gap, as of something that has been there and has been removed. In reality, the long and rather turgid Latin effusion, intended for the purpose, was never inscribed there, but the curious may read it in Hoare's Modern Wiltshire. Sprat, then Dean of Westminster and Bishop of Rochester, afterwards one of the few London clergy who read James's Declaration of Indulgence, took exception to some of the expressions. It was undeservedly eulogistic, and magnified Thynne's abilities, his services to Government and Liberty, and his exertions against Popish corruption. It thus describes the crime :
Tres armati, equis insidentes, et tonebris cooperti,
Perhaps 200 years ago the natural horror excited by the event made men attribute better qualities to the victim than he really possessed, for he was not a man of high or blameless character. Thomas Thynne—' Tom of ten thousand,' as he was nicknamed in reference to what in his time was considered an immense, as it was an uncommon, income-was about thirty-four years of age at the time of his death. Twelve years earlier he had come into possession of the magnificent house of Longleat, then, and perhaps still, the finest country house in England. Founded on the site of a dissolved priory, it had been built in the sixteenth century, and greatly added to by Thynne's uncle under the judicious advice of Wren. Queen Elizabeth had stayed there on her way to Bristol. Many interesting memories cluster round the house, not the least of which is that when the saintly Ken was extruded from the see of Bath and Wells, on account of his loyalty to James the Second, he found a shelter for his pious and meditative mind there."
Thynne, who had been at first attached to the Court and to the Duke of York, subsequently became, owing to a quarrel, an adherent of Monmouth, and entertained him at Longleat on his progress through the West in 1680, a tour the memories of which were still fresh in the minds of the peasantry at the time of the Western Rebellion. Allusion is made to this visit by Dryden in Absalom and Achitophel, where Thynne is ironically called ' wise 'Issachar:
From east to west his glories he displays
Whether Thynne had dissipated his property in the companionship of Monmouth or not, he appears to have been bent soon after this visit on making an advantageous marriage, and determined, with the assistance of a ‘marriage broker,' to pay his addresses to a very wealthy and important heiress.
• In the year 1681 Elizabeth Percy was fourteen years of age; she was the sole heiress of Josceline, eleventh Earl of Northumberland, and at the early age of four had succeeded to the honours and estates of the house of Percy, holding in her own right six of the oldest baronies in the kingdom-those of Percy, Lucy, Poynings, Fitz-Payne, Bryan, and Latimer. She had been brought up by her grandmother, the Dowager Countess of Northumberland, who, it is said, refused her
" Thomas Thynne, Viscount Weymouth, though not a non-juror, did himself honour by offering to the most virtuous of the non-jurors a tranquil and dignified asylum in the princely mansion of Longleat. There Ken passed a happy and honoured old age.—Macaulay, History of England, chap. xvii.
hand to Charles the Second for his natural son, the Duke of Richmond. At twelve years old she had been married to Henry Cavendish, Earl of Ogle, son and heir of the second Duke of Newcastle of the former creation. Elizabeth was a plain child, so red-headed as to be called
carrots,' or ' Countess Carrots,' while Ogle, at the time only fifteen years old, was a sickly, feeble, unattractive lad. He died a year later, and his child-widow once more became an object of attention to the marriage market. She had many suitors, but it is only necessary to consider one other besides Thynne, viz. Count Carl John Königsmarck. Mr. Wilkins, in his Love of an Uncrowned Queen, has described the glittering but superficial qualities, the personal beauty and bravery, but unscrupulous character, of this Swedish nobleman, and his younger brother Philip Christopher. Carl John had passed an adventurous youth, and greatly distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry in the field; he had also visited many Courts and plucked the fruits of notoriety, and conquered the hearts of the most illustrious and highborn women. He had visited the Court of St. James's several years earlier, and in 1681 brought over his brother Philip, a lad of seventeen, to finish his education in England, first by attending Foubert's Military Academy, and then by going to the University of Oxford. It was not sufficient on this occasion for Carl John merely to win the hearts of the frail beauties of Charles's Court; unequalled in his success in their pursuit, he was aiming at more material advantages, and made pretensions to the hand of Lady Ogle. When one considers the strange vicissitudes this plain and unhappy girl passed through in her child. hood, it is pleasant to think that she did, by way of compensation, obtain when of maturer years a distinguished and imposing career as wife of the influential Duke of Somerset; she was thrice wedded and twice widowed before the age of sixteen.
Königsmarck came forward as her suitor, and was not unfavourably regarded by her, but Lady Northumberland peremptorily rejected his pretensions, and in high dudgeon the Count resumed his military career and fought with great courage against the Moors and at Algiers. It was during his absence that Lady Northumberland, determined to prevent the girl from being snared into a marriage with a foreign adventurer, arranged and carried through the match with Thynne. The profligate owner of Longleat had not been sufficiently confident of his own purse or other attractions, so had enlisted in his favour the services of a marriage broker, George Potter, and bound himself to the latter in the penal sum of 10001. to pay 5001. to Potter within ten days after his marriage to Lady Ogle should have become an accomplished fact. It would be curious to know what resources Potter could be supposed to have for helping Thynne in ingratiating himself with the great Countess of the North, who had rejected for
? A century ago this Lady Northumberland was considered to have been the last who kept up the ceremonious state of the old peerage : when she went out to visit, #
her granddaughter the addresses of a king's son. Whatever they were, Thynne succeeded in his suit where Königsmarck had failed.
I will for a moment anticipate the course of the story in order to say that, several years after the marriage, and when Thynne and Potter were both dead, the widow of the latter sued the executors of the former for the 5001.-unsuccessfully. The House of Lords decided that the bond was an unlawful one, for that marriages should be promoted by the mediation of friends and relations and not of hirelings.'
The marriage then was solemnised (this has been often doubted, but in view of Mrs. Potter's action the fact seems beyond question), and immediately afterwards the unhappy girl-wife fled from the husband she dreaded; it is said that her friend in this emergency was Lady Temple, the Dorothy Osborne of Macaulay's famous essay, whose charming and sprightly letters to her lover, William Temple, during their long and seemingly hopeless engagement, are still read with delight and admiration.
Hateful as her new bondage was, Elizabeth Thynne, or Lady Ogle, was not destined to be long the wife, even in name, of the man she abhorred. Königsmarck was determined to avenge her and revenge himself ; perhaps in the intervals of his African campaigns he was meditating over his chances of still winning the heiress ; now that Thynne had actually been preferred to him he determined that no risk of consequences should stand in the way of retaliation. He was not a man to calculate the cost; there was that in the blood of his race which spurned cautious action. It is unlikely that she knew of his schemes, and most improbable that she was in any way accessory to them, though thirty years afterwards, when she had become the powerful and important Duchess of Somerset, the cruel slander was laid to her charge by no less a writer than Swift.3
Thynne's hostility to the Court and his attachment to Monmouth had continued, and in November 1681, shortly before his marriage, he was removed from his command of the Wilts Militia. He had only recently been one of that grand jury of Middlesex which refused to be coerced by the Chief Justices Pemberton and North into finding a true bill against Shaftesbury; and by a strange destiny these two magistrates were to sit in judgment upon his murderers.
footman, bareheaded, walked on each side of her coach, and a second coach with her woman attended her. Elizabeth, even after becoming Duchess of Somerset, never sat down in her presence without obtaining leave to do so.
• Beware of Carrots from Northumberland,
Carrots sown Thynne a deep root may get,
Is backwards and forwards always the same.
Attached to Königsmarck's person was a certain Captain Vratz, a bold, daring, and absolutely unscrupulous soldier of fortune, who had accompanied him in the wars, and obeyed him with dog-like fidelity. Vratz had commanded the forlorn hope at the siege of Mons, and in consequence of his gallantry there had been made by the Prince of Orange a lieutenant of his Guards, and been given by the King of Sweden the command of a troop of horse. Königsmarck knew him to be a suitable instrument for his black emprise, and Vratz faithfully and unrepentingly performed the task. He was all too willing to take the Count's quarrel with Thynne on his own shoulders, and later explained the matter by saying that after sending Thynne a challenge by post from Holland, and failing to get satisfaction that way, he determined to make a 'rencounter' of it in the street, and therefore took two swashbuckling companions to protect him in case he should be set upon by Thynne's servants. Of these two companions one was Boraski, a Pole, who had been brought over by Königsmarck from abroad, ostensibly for the purposes of his stable ; there was a fierce gale raging in the North Sea during his voyage, and the ship spent something like seven weeks in coming from Hamburg and was nearly cast away, Boraski eventually reaching London on Friday, the 10th of February 1682. The other conspirator, the least guilty of the gang, was Lieutenant Stern, a German, who was suborned by Vratz, under whose powerful influence he fell soon after a casual rencontre at his lodgings in the City.
I have above made allusion to the circumstance that Königsmarck had brought his younger brother Philip from Sweden to complete his education in England. He had engaged as governor for him a certain Frederick Hanson, with whom the youth was lodging at Foubert's Military Academy, at no great distance from the Haymarket. The recent establishment of this academy had been considered a question of almost national importance. Evelyn tells us the object was to ' lessen the vast expense the nation is at yearly in sending children into France to be taught military exercises.' The King gave 1001. towards this institution, the name of which is perpetuated by Foubert's Place, leading out of Regent Street. Philip was now approaching eighteen years of age, and though one can have no doubt that in fencing, horsemanship and love he was precocious beyond all his companions, it does not appear that he had any complicity in the plot against Thynne. Both Thackeray and Wilkins have told us in vivid words of the horrible tragedy of which he was a dozen years later the prime cause, and in which he perished miserably. His amorous tongue and pleasing person brought about the consignment of Sophia Dorothea, our uncrowned queen, to a thirty-six years' imprisonment. Whatever crimes and vices may be truthfully laid to his charge in later years, it is not clearly established that he abetted his brother on the present occasion. But his tutor Hanson undoubtedly knew what