LADY MARY WORTLEY MONTAGU’S ACCOUNT OF THE COURT OF GEORGE I
Lady Mary, then, had been in Yorkshire when the Queen died, and was still in the country, much against her will, when the King arrived on September 18. Soon after, however, she came to town, and, so to speak, looked around the Court. Her “Account of the Court of George I” is not always accurate, and is certainly often prejudiced. It is not the less interesting because the writer did not mince her words, even when discussing the character of her friend, “Dolly” Walpole. Notwithstanding, this bird-eye view of the royal and political circles at the accession of the first of the Hanoverian monarchs is so valuable as to deserve inclusion in this work.
“The new Court with all their train was arrived before I left the country. The Duke of Marlborough was returned in a sort of triumph, with the apparent merit of having suffered for his fidelity in the succession, and was reinstated in his office of general, &c. In short, all people who had suffered any hardship or disgrace during the late ministry would have it believed that it was occasioned by their attachment to the House of Hanover. Even Mr. Walpole, who had been sent to the Tower for a piece of bribery proved upon him, was called a confessor to the cause. But he had another piece of good luck that yet more contributed to his advancement, he had a very handsome sister, whose folly had lost her reputation in London; but the yet greater folly of Lord Townshend, who happened to be a neighbour in Norfolk to Mr. Walpole, had occasioned his being drawn in to marry her some months before the Queen died.
“Lord Townshend had that sort of understanding which commonly makes men honest in the first part of their lives; they follow the instruction of their tutor, and, till somebody thinks it worth while to show them a new path, go regularly on in the road where they are set. Lord Townshend had then been many years an excellent husband to a sober wife, a kind master to all his servants and dependants, a serviceable relation whenever it was in his power, and followed the instinct of nature in being fond of his children. Such a sort of behaviour without any glaring absurdity, either in prodigality or avarice, always gains a man the reputation of reasonable and honest; and this was his character when the Earl of Godolphin sent him envoy to the States, not doubting but he would be faithful to his orders, without giving himself the trouble of criticising on them, which is what all ministers wish in an envoy. Robethon, a French refugee (secretary to Bernstorff, one of the Elector of Hanover’s ministers), happened to be at The Hague, and was civilly received by Lord Townshend, who treated him at his table with the English hospitality; and he was charmed with a reception which his birth and education did not entitle him to. Lord Townshend was recalled when the Queen changed her ministry, his wife died, and he retired into the country, where (as I have said before) Walpole had art enough to make him marry his sister Dolly. At that time, I believe, he did not propose much more advantage by the match than to get rid of a girl that lay heavy on his hands.