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ART. VI.-Fifty Years of My Life. By George Thomas, Earl of Albemarle. In 2 vols. London, 1876.
HE Count de Ségur (father of the historian of the Russian
by the reflection that, 'chance having willed him to be successively colonel, general, traveller, poet, dramatist, courtier, farmer, deputy, councillor of state, senator, peer of France-to have seen men and things under all aspects, sometimes through the prism of happiness, sometimes through the crape of misfortune'-he was obviously predestined to record his impressions and reminiscences. Lord Albemarle was somewhat similarly justified in arriving at the same conclusion: chance having willed that he should be successively soldier, traveller, author, courtier, politician, country gentleman, man of fashion, county member, and peer: that when a boy at Westminster he should be the playmate of the heiress-presumptive to the throne: that he should leave school at fifteen to carry the colours of a gallant regiment at Waterloo that he should rise through every grade of the service, from ensign to general: that he should be aide-de-camp to a Viceroy of India and a Viceroy of Ireland, and equerry to a prince of the blood: that he should traverse the (then) least known countries of the Eastern hemisphere: that he should survey mankind, if not from China to Peru, from Calcutta to St. Petersburg: that he should live familiarly with a host of brilliant contemporaries, and be able in his seventy-seventh year to talk and write about them as freshly and vividly as if he were narrating the events of yesterday in his prime.
The personal qualities which, combined with luck, enable men to rise above the common level, appear to have been hereditary in his race. Dating from the memorable fifth of November, 1689, when Arnold van Keppel landed at Torbay with his royal friend and patron, we should be puzzled to name a period in which a Keppel will not be found occupying an honourable place in our naval or military annals; and the family documents throw light on many passages in history which it is desirable to clear up. Lord Albemarle, therefore, was amply justified in devoting a considerable space to the 'Keppels of England,' and has done a real service by printing such portions of their correspondence touching national and public occurrences as have been hitherto kept back. Nor are we disposed to carp at the pride of birth to which we are indebted for a preliminary chapter on the 'Keppels of Guelderland; who figured as prominently in the petty wars of the Low Countries in the middle ages as their descendants in more
regular and extended military operations on the same ground under William, Marlborough, or Eugene. An action in which Walter van Keppel was slain, in 1227, may serve as a specimen : presenting, as it does, a striking illustration of the times.
Otto van der Lippe, Bishop of Utrecht, on his departure for the Holy Land as a soldier of the Cross, consigned his territorial possessions to the guardianship of Roderic, Lord of Coerverden, who, on the bishop's return, insisted on retaining them and left the rightful owner no alternative but a resort to force.
The Bishop, like his predecessors and successors in the see, was as much a soldier as a priest. He resolved to compel a restitution by force of arms, and summoned his friends to his assistance. Gerhard, Count of Guelders, among others, obeyed the call of his spiritual lord. Attended by his nobles, knights, and vassals, he ranged himself under the banner of the warlike prelate, who led the troops in person. As his army approached the castle of Coerverden they found that every preparation had been made for its defence. Roderick, a strategist after a fashion, wishing to impress his assailants with the notion that he had a considerable body of cavalry at his disposal, collected within the walls of the castle a number of brood mares, which, being separated from their foals, kept up an incessant neighing during the night. The next morning, the Episcopalian troops perceived the enemy drawn up in order of battle before the castle, and at the edge of a morass; wearing no other defensive armour than a helmet and breastplate. The Bishop and his allies rushed impetuously to the attack, but being clad in heavy armour, and unacquainted with the passes of the bog, they stuck so fast in the mire that they tried to extricate themselves in vain. The rebels gained a complete and easy victory. The Count of Guelders was taken prisoner, and confined for a whole year in the castle of Coerverden. Among the slain was, as has been already mentioned, Derek van Keppel. A terrible fate awaited the Bishop. The captors of the prelate seem to have thought that his tonsure was inseparable from his sacred office, and that if this could be removed they might do with him as they listed, without incurring the crime of sacrilege. Accordingly, they scalped him with their swords. The unfortunate prelate lingered six days after this barbarous treatment before death put an end to his sufferings. His body was thrown into the bog and trampled under foot by his conquerors.
The sequel remains to be told. Pope Gregory IX., furious at the outrage offered to a dignitary of the Church, caused a crusade to be despatched against the Lord of Coerverden, who, as on the former occasion, was prepared to offer a formidable resistance. His enemies, however, unable to take him by force, held out to him the promise of a pardon. Inveigled by their assurances, the Lord of Coerverden surrendered himself into their hands, and-faith was not to be kept with such a sacrilegious wretch-he was immediately broken on the wheel; and his body left there to rot, as that of a common malefactor.'
Another of the family, Walter van Keppel, took part in the contest for the Duchy of Guelder (towards the middle of the fifteenth century) between Arnold, the reigning Duke, and his son Adolf, who commenced operations by laying violent hands upon his sire one night as he was going to bed, carrying him five German leagues on foot, and keeping him close prisoner in a dungeon for six months. I saw them several times,' says Philippe de Comines, in the Duke of Burgundy's chamber, pleading their causes before the Council, and the good old man in a passion threw his son his glove, and demanded a combat.' The Duke of Burgundy would fain have reconciled them, and offered the young Duke, who was his favourite, the government of the province with the whole revenue, stipulating merely that a small town near Brabant, called Grave, and the title of Duke, should be retained by the father. I was deputed,' continues the chronicler, with others wiser than myself, to make this proposal to the young Duke, whose answer was, that he would rather fling his father head foremost into a well and himself after him than consent to such an accommodation; for his father had been Duke four-and-forty years already, and it was now time that he should have his turn; but he would willingly allow him a pension of 3000 florins, upon condition that he would leave the duchy and never come into it again.' We regret to say that Lord Albemarle's ancestor took the side of the unnatural son, it being recorded that he was one of the eight persons whom Duke Arnold refused to pardon, and resolved on punishing when his turn came.
'Treason, sacrilege, and proscription,' remarks Gibbon, 'are often the best titles of nobility.' Passing over the many titles of this kind to which the Keppels of Guelderland, may doubtless lay claim, we come to the founder of the English branch, Arnold Joost van Keppel, who at the age of thirteen, 1685, succeeded his father in the Lordship of Voorst, being then page of honour to the Stadholder. He is described as the youngest, liveliest, and handsomest of the Dutchmen who accompanied the expedi
tion in 1689.
'On the accession of William to the throne he employed Keppel chiefly as an amanuensis; but his charming disposition, added to his good looks and winning manners, so won the affections of his royal master, that he soon became the dispenser of his patronage, the depositary of his secrets, and his inseparable companion in peace or war. When he came of age, in 1695, he was raised to the peerage by the titles of Baron Ashford, Viscount Bury of St. Edmunds, and Earl of Albemarle.'
The date of the peerage is 1696; when, if he was only thirteen
thirteen in 1685, he must have been twenty-four. The rapid elevation of so young a man, on the score of winning manners and good looks, was startling, and led to invidious comparisons with the favourites of James I. and other Court minions, till the indisputable merit of Keppel amply justified the full amount of honours that had been conferred upon him. He is first brought upon the stage by Lord Macaulay in 1698, in marked contrast to Portland, a most trusty but not a very respectful subject, who, as an early friend of the Prince of Orange, had acquired a habit of plain-speaking that he could not unlearn when the comrade of his youth had become the Sovereign of three kingdoms.' Keppel, on the other hand, had a great desire to please, and looked up with unfeigned admiration to a master whom he had been accustomed, ever since he could remember, to consider as the first of living men. 'Arts, therefore, which were neglected by the elder courtier, were assiduously practised by the younger. So early as the spring of 1691 shrewd observers were struck by the manner in which Keppel watched every turn of the King's eye and anticipated the King's unuttered wishes.'
Portland was at no pains to conceal the feelings of resentful jealousy with which he regarded so formidable a rival. He even intimated an intention of retiring from the Court; and, according to Lord Macaulay, it was to conciliate him by a fresh distinction, as well as to separate him from the object of his dislike, that he was appointed ambassador to France. But Burnet and Rapin, whom Lord Macaulay has obviously paraphrased in his description of Albemarle, mention Portland's jealousy as arriving at the exploding-point upon his return from his embassy, when (says Burnet) he could not bear the visible superiority in favour that the other was grown up to; so he took occasion, from a small preference that was given him, in prejudice of his own post as Groom of the Stole, and upon it withdrew from the Court, and laid down all his employments.' These he refused to resume, although he continued to serve the King as councillor and diplomatist. Burnet gives an additional trait which is hardly in keeping with the character: 'He was a cheerful young man, that had the art to please, but was so much given up to his own pleasures that he could scarce submit to the attendance and the drudgery that was necessary to maintain his post. He never yet distinguished himself in anything, though the King did it in everything.'
It was not only in his royal master's eyes that Keppel shone to the disadvantage of his dry, haughty, and reserved competitor. He had almost managed, by dint of affability and tact, to cause
his foreign origin to be forgotten by the English, when (in 1700) the question of the Irish forfeitures raised a storm which not merely imperilled the recently-acquired fortunes of the Dutch courtiers, but shook the throne. William, it will be remembered, thought fit to distribute a large portion of the forfeited estates as he and his predecessors had been wont to distribute the hereditary domains of the Crown. The grant that provoked most censure was that to his ex-mistress, Elizabeth Villiers, popularly valued at 20,0001. a-year. But (adds Lord Macaulay, who labours hard to palliate the transaction) of all the grants, the largest was to Woodstock, the eldest son of Portland; the next was to Albemarle. An admirer of William cannot relate, without pain, that he divided between these two foreigners an extent of country larger than Hertfordshire.' The Parliamentary Commissioners reported that there were grants to Albemarle of altogether 108,600 acres, and that prior to the inquiry he had sold or mortgaged portions to the amount of 13,0007.
This ill-advised act of royal bounty was rendered more surprising and exasperating by what had occurred in 1695, when the grant to Portland of a magnificent estate in Denbighshire had been reluctantly and ungraciously annulled, in compliance with an irresistible outburst of popular indignation. The renewed attempt gave occasion for a memorable quarrel between the two Houses, which must have ended in a civil war, had not the Lords prudently given way at the most critical moment, and concurred in a Bill providing that all the property which had belonged to the Crown at the time of the accession of James II., or which had been since forfeited to the Crown, should be vested in trustees. This measure, fortunately for the Dutch courtiers, was not pressed to extremities; but their Irish grants were cancelled; and, in part compensation to Albemarle, the King, in the course of the following year, sent some of the first English artificers to Holland, 'to beautify the house and grounds of his country seat.' No less than fifty thousand pounds were spent upon it; and we should infer, from a contemporary description, that the house and place were then rather constructed than beautified:
'Once I rid from Diesen to Zutphen, over the Issell, in order to see a most noble and magnificent house of the Right Honourable the Earl of Albemarle that his lordship had lately built about half a league from Zutphen, and from which city there is a very spacious avenue, or access made to the house, between a double row of trees; his lordship possessing a considerable estate in that province. This house has noble gardens adjoining to it, and made after the greatest models-with terras-walks, fountains, cascades, lands, &c. But they