20 MAY 1905, Page 20

CHARLOTTE, COUNTESS OF DERBY.* VANDYCK'S usual clusters of curls and

ropes of pearls, which generally suggest such an amazing family likeness among the ladies of the early seventeenth century, seem to leave unsoftened the handsome and proud but rather solid countenance of Charlotte de la Tremouille. It is possible to read a good deal in that fine, resolute, and not very happy face.

The marriage of Mlle. de la Tremouille was entirely one of

arrangement ; she married, it is true, a very noble and excellent man ; but for all that, she was an exile, and her birth and descent would have entitled her to a greater, and perhaps happier, marriage, from a worldly point of view, in her own country. She had Royal blood in her veins, her father being descended from the Kings of Naples through his grandmother, the daughter of Charlotte of Aragon, Princess of Tarente. The eldest son of the Duc de la Tremouille bore the title of Prince de Tarente, and the Duchesse de la Tremouille, sister-in-law of the Countess of Derby, demanded and obtained a tabouret at Louis XIV.'s Court, not only for herself, but for her daughters, "en qualite de princesses." Before this time the Duke, her brother, had taken the worldly-wise step of giving up the Protestantism which had been a tradition in his family for many years. His father, Duke Claude de la Tremouille and de Thouars, one of Henry IV.'s most loyal followers, had held to his religion more sturdily than his Royal master did, and had married "the very noble and gracious Dame Charlotte Brabantine de Nassau, daughter of William the Silent, Prince of Orange, and of his third wife, Charlotte de Bourbon Mont- pensier." Royal and princely blood again, and something finer than a Neapolitan descent, for the Dukes of Montpensier traced their direct descent from Saint-Louis. And no Protestant family, we suppose, stood higher than that of Nassau.

As long as Henry IV. lived, his Protestant followers enjoyed his personal favour. But throughout the Regency of Marie de Medicis they found the atmosphere colder, and Richelieu, though granting them toleration, reduced them to insignificance, as far as power in the state went. He could not, of course, really affect the position of a Duke de la Tremouille. We see that in all the Memoirs of the time. But he could, and did, make it a worldly necessity for moat of the great Protestant nobles to conform to the religion of the Court.

Charlotte de la Tremouille was born in 1601, and was only

nine years old when Henry IV. died, so that she was brought up, almost of necessity, in retirement at Thouars, her father's Poitevin château and town. (By the way, from some unfortunate mistake, Thonars is printed Thonars all through Mrs. Rowsell's book.) It was rather a dull life for those stirring days, though there was plenty of local magnificence. The Huguenot nobles found it by no means easy to provide suitable marriages for their children. The discussions on this subject must have been many and difficult, before Charlotte, at twenty-five, was conveyed by her mother to the Hague and very soon married, at her great-uncle's Court, to James Stanley, Lord Strange, a handsome youth of twenty. The Church of England then, as now, was regarded on the Continent as the most venerable of Protestant sects. Also,

the marriage of Henrietta Maria had brought England into fashion.

Charlotte de la. Tremouille, now Lady Strange, began her life in England as one of the Queen's ladies, a likely and

proper position for a woman of her birth. But she does not seem to have remained long at Court, though her religion and her marriage naturally placed her, in Charles L's eyes, on a different plane from Henrietta Maria's other French attendants and companions. They, as everybody knows, were very soon dismissed to their own country. It is likely that Lady Strange, after they were gone, found her position with the Queen none of the most comfortable. She retired with her husband to the home of the happiest part of their lives—which also gave her a place in English history- Lathom House, in Lancashire.

Mrs. Rowsell gives a very picturesque description of Lathom. Though it stood in a hollow, it was an extremely fine old house, fortified like a feudal castle, with a wide moat and eighteen towers. With a resolute garrison, it was quite fitted in those days to stand a long siege. But the Civil War was still some years distant when young Lord and Lady Strange made Lathom their home, and when their children were born there. Life even then was not without its drawbacks, and money worries tormented the household. We do not think that Lady Strange took these things easily. There were difficulties, on the side of her own family, about paying over her fortune, which were likely to annoy a proud woman terribly, good and affectionate as she was. The cause of this delay on the part of the La Tremouilles is not very clearly explained by Charlotte's biographer. The following para. graph is no doubt true, but so confused in its relative dates that Mrs. Rowsell seems to make the League and Henry IV. contemporary with the early married life of Charlotte de la Tremonille. She does not do so, of course ; but only clear- headed readers, we think, will quite see her meaning. It might easily be made plain in another edition :-

" Pecuniary cares, which harassed Lady Strange all the rest of her life, were setting in. With the adoption of the Romanist faith by Henry IV., the prospects of the Huguenots darkened. The League took possession of the towns and castles belonging to the Duke de In Tremouille ; the agricultural prosperity of France was again blighted by renewed civil warfare, and the tenant-farmers were in arrears with their rents and payments. The Duke was not . able to sell his acres of arable and pasture land, and consequently could not send his sister the money which was hers by right."

It would take most people a moment's thought to realise that the above refers to two Dukes, at periods of time divided by nearly forty years.

In 1642, at the very beginning of the Civil War, Lord Strange succeeded his father as Earl of Derby. An honest, loyal, single-minded man, he was out of place in the councils of the King. His envious enemies persuaded Charles that he was not to be trusted ; his advice was thrown aside for that of rash and violent men, though all the help he could give in

money and soldiers was accepted, and even demanded. All this unworthy treatment made no difference to Lord Derby's

et :tidy faith in Monarchy ; but he retired to his heritage, the Isle of Man, to hold it for the King, leaving his wife and children in Lancashire.

Now followed the famous siege of Lathom House, first by Fairfax, then by Colonel Rigby, which lasted four months, and gave the Countess of Derby her rank among heroines. During this time she never flagged or failed in spirit; her little garrison, under such a leader, held out manfully, even made successful sorties against the Parliament army, and accounted for five hundred men, besides cannon and a murderous mortar. Through all this long battering only six of the besieged were killed. Bombs burst in the dining-hall, but Lady Derby and her children went calmly on with their meal; bullets pierced her bedroom, but she would not change it. At length the approach of Prince Rupert forced Rigby to raise the siege.

Mrs. Rowsell gives a very spirited account of all this. We suspect her of passing rather lightly over some of the sterner features of the Countess's defence, such as her treatment of prisoners. Humanity and softness were not, we think, among the virtues of Charlotte de In Tremouille ; her portrait says as much. The records of the Isle of Man, the death in after years of William Christian, though he may have deserved it at the hands of the owners of Man, suggest a personage of whom it is speaking mildly to say that she had "no false sentiment." She was, in truth, a woman of her own country and her own time. Her type was not English, but rather of the early seventeenth century in France. With the different moral standard of a granddaughter of William the Silent, she had the daring energy, the love of adventure, the rejoicing in war as a game, of the ladies of the Fronde,—Madame de Longueville, Madame de Chevreuse, the Grande Mademoiselle, and other Amazonian heroines. She stands higher in history than any of these, because it was a strong sense of duty, both to her husband and the King, which carried her through that famous siege ; but she was a Frenchwoman such as Corneille might have created, strengthened by a dash of Dutch Protestantism.

The Parliament took revenge on Lathom House, after the Countess had left it, and pulled it down to the ground. When the gallant Lord Derby was beheaded at Bolton, in 1651, the scaffold on which he lost his life was made of wood from Lathom House,—an unworthy piece of cruel mockery.

Mrs. Rowsell reminds us that Sir Walter Scott, knowingly and of set purpose, represented Lady Derby, in Peveril of the Peak, as a Roman Catholic. It hardly need be said that from the time of her marriage to her death she was a faithful member of the Church of England.