Home Site Map Back

Source: Bell's Weekly Messenger, No.1794, Sunday, August 15, 1830.

Hartwell House.

(From a Correspondent.)

Hartwell House is about a mile and a half from Aylesbury, and pleasantly situated in a compact park, which had, at different periods, been expensively embellished, in conformity to the tastes of the respective times. At the period it was hired for Louis the 18th., it contained many well-furnished spacious apartments, an extensive gallery, and a large and valuable collection of paintings, chiefly portraits by old masters. The attendants and protegés of Louis and his consort were, from his entry into Hartwell, so numerous, as so require extensive accommodation; and the gallery and ether apartments were divided by them into separate suits of rooms, according to their several tastes, to the disorder and damage of the mansion. No deference seems to have been paid by them in effecting these transformations, either to the feelings or the interests of the proprietor. In the apartment occupied by Charles while a visitor to his brother, was a whole-length portrait, by Sir Joshua Reynolds, of the mother of Sir George Lee, who had been sister to the Earl of Harcourt ; and so little did there appear among the occupants either of respect for the arts or in homage to the sex, as regarded this admirably executed likeness of a beautiful female, that all the time the royal family occupied the house, a French mirror of extraordinary magnitude was placed before the portrait so as to completely exclude it from view. Sir George, who was in all respects one of the best of men, bore all these unpleasant incidents with amiable philosophy. When led to refer to them, some time after the departure of his tenants, he observed with a smile, " Well, still I ought to he satisfied with the remuneration of the British government."

As the exile of the emigrants had become protracted, and their resources drained, the train of Louis's followers became greatly increased. All the outhouses on the premises that could afford decent shelter, were converted into chambers for persons who had occupied some of the most splendid situations in France. At one time the number of those persons amounted to more than 140; and many of them had become so straitened in their means of procuring comfort, as to be obliged to dispose, at Aylesbury, of the little valuables they had seemed most anxious to retain.

Louis, during his exile in England, it was reported, received an allowance from the British Government of 20,000l. a-year. The style in which he lived at Hartwell was unostentatious, and closely conformable with the rank he assumed of Count. He had, however, not a few foreign visitors, and among others Gustavus, of Sweden, who several times used to pass some days with him. On those occasions, the neighbours who crossed Hartwell-park were often struck with she rare and not unaffecting sight of two ex-kings promenading the groves together, and ministering, apparently, to each other, condolence and consolation. Of English visitors the number was few, and the Marquis of Buckingham the chief and most frequent. Forming among themselves an extensive and exclusive society, the exiles generally kept apart from neighbourhood associations ; but the character they sustained throughout the neighbourhood, from she highest of them to the lowest generally, was respectable. Of Louis, little was known beyond the limits of the mansion, except that he was of a cultured and judicious mind, with much urbanity of manners,—fond of the pursuits of elegant literature, but equally fond of the less intellectual pleasures of the table. The character of his brother Charles did not develop itself as Hartwell, as it had at Holyrood-house, and other places of his residence, beyond the pale, although he, of all the party, was most accustomed to appear in public, by riding about the country.

While Louis was resident at Hartwell, the decease of his consort took place, and her remains were conveyed to a temporary resting-place in Westminster Abbey, till transferred to the mausoleum of the royal family in France. Louis sustained the loss of his Queen with fortitude; his brother Charles, whom death deprived of a favourite mistress, was plunged, by his loss, into inconsolable grief. To this occurrence has been ascribed the commencement of that change of mental frame of which his spiritual companions availed themselves, and by which they gradually transformed a character of levity into that of a devotee and a despot.

An unexpected flood of light beaming forth on the prospects of the Bourbons, the style and spirits of Louis became more brilliant, and when his return to France appeared approaching to certainty, he began to assume, at Hartwell, the state of a King. On the Sunday before he left that place, he had, in conformity wish the fashion of the French Court, a dinner of ceremony in public. He who, till this period, had long remained obscure and unregarded, was elevated as once into exalted notice and respect. Addresses of congratulations were presented to him from Aylesbury and neighbouring places; and on his triumphal departure from Hartwell, as he passed through the former town, he was greeted with the sight of the white flag waving on the summit of the market-house, and escorted by a numerous cavalcade of persons from the neighbourhood, who accompanied him many miles on the road to London.

Before leaving Hartwell, Louis had the politeness to urge Sir George Lee to visit him at the Tuileries ; but it was not until some time after that Sir George proceeded to avail himself of the invitation. Soon after his arrival in Paris, having announced himself to the proper officer of the Court, and solicited a private audience of his Majesty, he was desired to call next day for an answer. The next day he called, accordingly, but he found the officer unprepared with an answer, and he and his attendants in confusion. Sir George became confounded too; and was perplexed in his attempts to account for his awkward reception. It was not, however, long after his return to his hotel, that the occasion was sufficiently known. Tidings had arrived and spread that Buonaparte had landed from Elba; and while Sir George Lee was thus painfully frustrated in his design of congratulating the King on his accession to the palace of his ancestors, the poor King, in an infinitely more painful strain, was bustling to quit his palace at a moment's warning and to flee for refuge to the frontiers.

Whilst Louis XVIII. was residing at Hartwell, he was frequently in the habit of changing horses at the King's Arms Inn, at Berkhampstead, the landlord of which has several daughters, with the eldest of whom (who is represented to be a very sensible woman) Louis was very fond of chatting; and to enjoy this pleasure he would frequently be driven to the inn, when no other purpose called him that way. After the restoration Louis invited his fair friend to come to Paris, whither she went and was provided with apartments at the Tuileries. Louis treated his guest with great respect, but scandal suggested that his attentions were dictated by a warmer motive than friendship. On the lady's return from Paris the injurious rumour reached her ear; and she wrote a letter to a newspaper denying its truth, in which she pleasantly observed, that the King's Arms, at Berkhampstead, were the only King's arms she was ever in. The deposed King was accustomed to accompany Louis to the inn.

Search this web site for Surnames / Subjects