It was finally decided that it would be best to burn both his and hers. This work was carried out in Mrs. Fitzherbert’s own house by the lady, the duke, and the Earl of Albemarle.
Of George it may be said that he has left as memories behind him only three things that will be remembered. The first is the Pavilion at Brighton, with its absurdly oriental decorations, its minarets and flimsy towers. The second is the buckle which he invented and which Thackeray has immortalized with his biting satire. The last is the story of his marriage to Maria Fitzherbert, and of the influence exercised upon him by the affection of a good woman.
Perhaps some readers will consider this story inconsistent with those that have preceded it. Yet, as it is little known to most readers and as it is perhaps unique in the history of romantic love, I cannot forbear relating it; for I believe that it is full of curious interest and pathetic power.
All those who have written of the French Revolution have paused in their chronicle of blood and flame to tell the episode of the peasant Royalist, Charlotte Corday; but in telling it they have often omitted the one part of the story that is personal and not political. The tragic record of this French girl and her self-sacrifice has been told a thousand times by writers in many languages; yet almost all of them have neglected the brief romance which followed her daring deed and which was consummated after her death upon the guillotine. It is worth our while to speak first of Charlotte herself and of the man she slew, and then to tell that other tale which ought always to be entwined with her great deed of daring.
Charlotte Corday—Marie Anne Charlotte Corday d’Armand—was a native of Normandy, and was descended, as her name implies, from noble ancestors. Her forefathers, indeed, had been statesmen, civil rulers, and soldiers, and among them was numbered the famous poet Corneille, whom the French rank with Shakespeare. But a century or more of vicissitudes had reduced her branch of the family almost to the position of peasants—a fact which partly justifies the name that some give her when they call her “the Jeanne d’Arc of the Revolution.”
She did not, however, spend her girlish years amid the fields and woods tending her sheep, as did the other Jeanne d’Arc; but she was placed in charge of the sisters in a convent, and from them she received such education as she had. She was a lonely child, and her thoughts turned inward, brooding over many things.
After she had left the convent she was sent to live with an aunt. Here she devoted herself to reading over and over the few books which the house contained. These consisted largely of the deistic writers, especially Voltaire, and to some extent they destroyed her convent faith, though it is not likely that she understood them very fully.