Friday, 18 November 2016

Queen Anne and the Sign of the Feathers

Princess Anne (later Queen Anne) stays at the Sign of the Feathers, 
Wheelergate, Nottingham, 1688.

From - The Date Book of Remarkable and Memorable Events Connected with Nottingham ..By John Frost Sutton - 1852. copied in turn from - Nottinghamia vetus et nova: or, An historical account of the ancient and ... - By Charles Deering, Rupert Cecil Chicken. 1750.

The circumstances connected with the flight of the Princess Anne, subsequently Sovereign of these realms, are thus detailed in Mrs. A. Thompson’s Memoirs of Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough,
and of the Court of Queen Anne.” It must be premised that William, Prince of Orange, had landed at Torbay, and that King James had been out to meet him as far as Salisbury, where he stayed a week, but had returned to London, owing to numerous defections, the Prince George of Denmark amongst the number. “Here,” states the authoress, “ a severer blow than any which James had hitherto experienced, fell upon him: the Princess Anne had fled. At first, to aggravate the King’s distress, a mystery was made of her flight, and it was insinuated that James, by encouraging the Papists, had been instrumental in the death of his child, who, it was said, had been murdered by them, on account of her Protestantism. James, who had fondly loved his
daughter, and had always shewn her the utmost tenderness, burst
into tears, and in the agonies of parental feeling exclaimed, * God help me, my own children have forsaken me!' 

“The following account of the caution with which Anne concerted her flight, and the mode in which she put it in execution, is given by her companion, the Duchess of Marlborough :—* The Princess went to bed at the usual time, to avoid suspicion. I came to her soon after; and by the back stairs which went down from her closet, her Royal Highness, my Lady Fitzhardinge, and 1, with one servant, walked to the coach, where, according to arrangement, we found the Bishop of London and the Earl of Dorset They conducted us that night to the Bishop’s house in the city, and the next day to my Lord Dorset’s at Copt Hall. - From thence we went to the Earl of Northampton’s, and from thence to Nottingham, where the country gathered round the Princess, nor did she think herself safe until she saw herself surrounded by the Prince of Orange’s friends.’  

Inoffensive, and even popular from her strict adherence to Protestantism, Anne immediately met with defenders. A small body of volunteers mustered round her and formed a guard, commanded by no less a person than Dr. Compton, Bishop of London, the resolute prelate who had opposed the Court on various occasions, and especially in his refusal to suspend a Protestant clergyman for exposing Papistical errors. This zealous man, who had been a comet of dragoons in his youth, now rode before the Princess and her suite, including the Duchess of Marlborough (then simply Lady Churchill), carrying a drawn sword in one hand, and pistols on his saddle-bow. In this chivalric guise the fugitive party reached Northampton and travelled on to Nottingham, where the gallant Earl of Devonshire, the friend of Russell, had raised a band of volunteers to assist the cause of the Revolution.* 

“It happened that the famous Caius Gabriel Cibber, the sculptor, was at this time at Chatsworth, engaged by Lord Devonshire in the embellishment of that sumptuous place, and, in the words of Colley Gibber, of altering it * from a Gothic to a Grecian magnificence.’ Colley Cibber, in pursuance of his father’s commands, travelled from London to Nottingham, and found the country in a state, if it may be so expressed, of peaceful commotion. When he arrived at Nottingham he found his father in arms there, among the Earl’s volunteer company. Caius, however, was aged, and averse to the thought of a winter campaign, and he persuaded his patron to allow him to retire to Chatsworth to finish his works, and to substitute his young son, more fit for the business of war, into his honours and regimentals. The Earl consented, and Colley Gibber jumped,’ as he expressed it, into his father’s saddle.’ 

He had not been many days in Nottingham before news of the Princess Anne’s flight reached that city, accompanied by the report that two thousand of the King’s dragoons were in pursuit to bring her back to London. . On this alarm the volunteers scrambled to arms, and advanced some miles on the London-road, in order to meet the Princess and her cavalcade, Anne being attended only by the Lady Churchill and the Lady Fitzhardinge.

The party thus guarded entered Nottingham in safety, and were lodged and provided for by the care and at the charge of the Earl of Devonshire: and the same night all the noblemen and other persons of distinction in arms had the honour to sup at her Highness’s table. “ There being more guests in number than attendants out of liveries to be found, Cibber, being well known in the Earl of Devonshire’s family, was desired by the maitre d'hotel to assist at the table. 

It fell to the lot of the young officer of volunteers to wait upon Lady Churchill, and he has left the following interesting memorandum of the occasion :—‘ Being so near the table, you may naturally ask me what I might have heard to have passed in conversation at it, which I certainly should tell you, had I attended to above two words that were uttered there, and those were, ‘ some wine and water.' These as I remember, came distinguished to my ear, because they came from the fair guest whom I , took such pleasure to wait on. Except at that single sound, all my senses were collected into my eyes, which during the whole entertainment, wanted no better amusement than that of stealing now and then the delight of gazing on the fair object so near me.

If so clear an emanation of beauty, such a commanding grace of aspect, struck me into a regard that had something softer than the most profound respect in it, I cannot see why I may not, without offence, remember it; since beauty, like the sun, must sometimes lose its power to choose, and shine into equal warmth the peasant and the courtier.’ 

Such was the impression which Lady Churchill, most likely unconsciously, produced upon the imaginative Cibber, who, fifty years after this memorable scene, describes it in the foregoing glowing terms.”

* The Princess and her distinguished attendants honoured the Feathers Inn with their company during their stay in Nottingham.

Pre war Photograph of 4 - 6 Wheelergate, Nottingham.

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