Wednesday, 1 May 2013

The Comprehensive Collapse of the Pathetic Prosecution

              When Brougham commenced the examination of witnesses, he shredded those who spoke against the Queen and provided other witnesses for the defence who gave evidence that directly contradicted that of the prosecution and exonerated the Queen of all improprieties. When asked if she had ever seen anything that might be thought unbecoming in the Queen’s behaviour, her lady-in-waiting, Lady Charlotte Lindsay, replied with an unequivocal ‘Never!  

George IV - The Pride of Britain

The Earl of Llandaff, who had been at Naples and Venice whilst the Queen was residing there, told the Lords that it was absolutely normal for even the most modest of Italian ladies to receive morning calls when still in their beds. Mr Keppel Craven, one of the Queen’s chamberlains, said that he had requested the Marchese Ghisleri provide a suitable courier, and Pergami was the recommendation. 

Sir William Gell

Sir William Gell, another chamberlain, said that he had been astonished on one occasion to see Ghisleri, in full Austrian chamberlain’s uniform, throw his arms around Pergami and kiss him twice, in the street and before the public. 
This familiarity is customary in Italy, between friends and equals when they part from one another.” 

Bartolomeo Pergami

The prosecution had made great play of the incident aboard a polacca, when sailing back from Jerusalem, when Pergami and the Queen had slept in the same tent on the deck. They had, but at the Queen’s request, as she needed a trusted male servant at close hand, on a ship manned by Greek and Italian seamen, who might not be trusted to provide assistance in the pirate-infested waters; they had slept full clothed, on separate couches – surely if they intended intimacy, they would at least have gone below decks and slept in a much-less conspicuous cabin. 


Had Pergami and Caroline travelled together in the same carriage? – Yes, they had, but the prosecution witnesses had failed to mention that Pergami’s sister and daughter had also been in the same carriage. Then Brougham called two other Italians, Giroline and Pomi, both of whom revealed that the prosecution witnesses had been paid 40 francs a day each and given free room and board. 

What an Obviously Not-Dishonest Italian Looks Like.

Was this not tantamount to the bribing of witnesses? How could they be trusted? (Byron, writing to his publisher during the case, mentions, almost in passing, that testimony of any sort could be bought in Italy, if the price was right). 

Sir Robert Gifford, the Attorney-General

Brougham recalled to the stand one of the prosecution witnesses, Guiseppe Rastelli, but the Attorney-General was forced to admit that Rastelli was no longer in England. He had been sent to Milan, to assure any witnesses that may yet still be called from there, that there was nothing to fear in coming to England, in spite of the near lynching of some of the Italians at Dover. Which was convenient. Was it not the case that he had been sent to Milan to get him out of the country, that he was a secret agent away on business? It was all a very, well, unEnglish way of going about things. 

Thomas Denman, the Queen's Solicitor

Denman, the Queen’s solicitor, summed the case up and very nearly scuppered the whole defence when, in his final sentence, he alluded to the Woman Taken in Adultery, to whom Christ had said, 
If no accuser can come forward to condemn thee, neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.” 
It was not so much the reference, as the way it was delivered, and it did not sit well with the more religious Lords, and the King’s supporters made much of Denman’s faux pas

One shining wit was inspired to pen this verse,
Gracious Queen, we thee implore,
Go away and sin no more;
But if that effort be too great,
Go away - at any rate.

Thomas Denman, the Queen's Solicitor

In one of the longest debates ever to take place in the Upper House, the Lords considered the pros and cons, mulled over what they had seen and heard, and eventually voted for a second reading of the Bill, with 123 declaring themselves ‘content’ and 95 ‘not content’. And so, with a majority of 28, the Lords declared Caroline of Brunswick guilty of licentious and disgraceful behaviour with a menial servant. 

Would you behave licentiously and disgracefully with this woman?

But that was not the end. A number of those who had voted in favour were the bishops, who were quite prepared to degrade Caroline from the throne but reluctant to grant a divorce, but the Whigs, strategically, pressed for the retention of the divorce clause in the Bill, (a move thus supported by the King), and when the vote for the third reading was taken, the bishops moved against it. In consequence, the vote was 108 for, with 99 against, a majority of a mere 9 votes. 

Lord Liverpool

It became abundantly clear to the Tories that if the Bill went before the Commons, with such a slim majority, it was bound to be defeated. With reluctance, Lord Liverpool, the Prime Minister, withdrew the Bill, and in spite, on paper, of having won the vote, the King’s party had lost the battle. 

Queen Caroline leaves the Lords after the Bill fails

To cries of Vivat Regina, the public turned out in support of the Queen, and there were serious fears that there could be a revolution in England. Members of the Court, and even the King himself, were reluctant to go out in public. The coaches of the Lords were stopped in the street and were not allowed to proceed until the occupants had alighted and cried, “God save the Queen.” 

Lord Lonsdale, stopped in this way, was said to have had his revenge on the mob by shouting, 
God save the Queen – may all of your wives be like her.”

 Tomorrow - Does George IV admit defeat? Or do things turn nasty?

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