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Mrs. Fitzherbert's nephew ; for he represents his brother, Lord Stourton, to be related to her by blood, and he mentions Mr. Bodenham as his brother-in-law; and in another place tells us that this gentleman's wife was Mrs. Fitzherbert's niece. Nothing can be more absurd than leaving us to gather this relationship by such conjectures, when he might have stated it simply and distinctly. Mr. Langdale further conceives that the honour of the Roman Catholic religion is as much concerned as that of his aunt in the refutation of a statement quoted over and again from Lord Holland's Diary, that a person of veracity had assured him of the marriage with the Prince having been the wish of the latter, and not of the lady, who all along was aware of its invalidity, and was willing to give herself up to the wishes of the Prince without any such empty ceremony. On the contrary, says Mr. Langdale, she would on no account submit to such a thing without a marriage, which, however invalid by the law of the land, that is, however illegal, however void in itself, and attended with high penalties, was in the eyes of a good Catholic binding, and therefore lawful.
The facts are, as stated by our author, shortly these :-She was addressed by the Prince, who proposed marriage, and she resisted his importunities, being aware—although both Lord Stourton in his narrative, and Mr. Langdale in his rambling and confused book, seem to avoid distinctly stating it—that the marriage was illegal, as being without the King's consent, and that it must be attended with a forfeiture of the Crown. When Lord Stourton describes the marriage as being felt by her to be attended with "great sacrifices and difficulties;” and again, that she knew it would "plunge her in great and inextricable difficulties," while he describes her as aware “that it would give her no legal claim to be the Prince's wife,” we must at once perceive that she acted all along with her eyes open to the nature of the contract, and of the connection she was asked to form. Her resistance was overcome by a proceeding which most readers will consider as a stratagem.
An eminent surgeon, accompanied by three personal friends of the Prince, “arrived at her house in the utmost consternation, informing her that the Prince had stabbed himself, and his life was in imminent danger." The narrative adds that they also said, "only her immediate presence could save him." However, any person of ordinary acuteness must have perceived the utter inconsistency of this story, and therefore its manifest falsehood; for if the eminent surgeon pronounced his patient's life to be in imminent danger, how could her presence save it? That Lord Stourton's acuteness did not suffice to make him perceive this, is manifest; and we suppress intentionally the names of the four persons whom he accuses of telling the impossible story, because we do not believe that they ever told it. They could only have said that he would kill himself; that he had given himself a wound which he would repeat. They never could even have said that he would let himself bleed to death, unless she went to see him (the only conceivable way of her saving his life), because the surgeon would by that statement admit that he had left his patient in extremities. She manifestly had too much sense to believe any such story; "she resisted in the most peremptory manner all their importunities, saying that nothing should induce her to enter Carlton House” (p. 118). However," she was afterwards brought to share in the alarm ; but, still fearful of some stratagem derogatory to her reputation,” she refused to go unless accompanied by some lady of high character; and the Duchess of Devonshire was selected. His Royal Highness must by this story have been bleeding for a considerable time; but they arrived, having called at Devonshire House to take up the duchess. Mrs. Fitzherbert found the Prince pale and covered with blood," which so overpowered her that she was deprived almost of all consciousness," though the noble historian does not take it upon him to assert that she fainted. The Prince then proceeded to say that “nothing would induce him to live unless she promised to become his wife, and permitted him to put a ring round her finger.” His lordship adds his belief that a ring of the duchess was used on this occasion, and not one of his Royal Highness's. He says further, that he asked Mrs. Fitzherbert (a very natural question) whether she did not believe some trick had been practised, and that it was not the Prince's blood which she saw; but she answered in the negative. Two proofs of her being right are then stated to have been given by her, one pertinent enough, the other wholly beside the subject : it seems she had frequently seen the scar afterwards, and also saw some brandy and water near the bedside on the day in question. A deposition was then drawn up at Devonshire House of what had occurred; “it was signed and sealed by all the party,” we presume with the exception of the wounded personage, who “went into the country for a change of air,” while Mrs. Fitzherbert went abroad, after writing to one of the party a letter, "protesting against what had taken place, as not being a free agent.” She remained on the continent some years, and refused to perform the promise extorted by what she termed force; but a correspondence was carried on between the parties, through that respected person the Duke of Orleans (Egalité), and she was induced to "promise formally and deliberately she never would marry any other person.' The naïveté of what follows is remarkable. After so much had been said of “resistance with the utmost anxiety and firmness ;” of “resisting all importunities in the most peremptory manner;" of "protest that she was not a free agent;" of her wish “to break through her own engagements ;" of “her breaking off a union fraught with such dangerous consequences to her peace and happiness ;” the noble historian gives as the reason for the promise never to marry another, that she was under the influence of fear from the fact of what his Royal Highness might do under “his desperation;" adding, “lastly, she was induced to return to England, and to agree to become his wife on those conditions which satisfied her own conscience, though she could have no legal claim to be the wife of the Prince” (p. 121).
Now what were these conditions ? All that Lord Stourton states is a marriage by a Protestant clergyman in the presence of her uncle and her brother, a marriage, he is pleased to say, according to the rites of the Catholic Church. But it could only be according to those rites, by being a valid marriage according to the laws of England, where it was contracted. There runs through the whole book a kind of doctrine, half brought out, that a marriage may be good in the eye of the Romish Church, which is illegal in every other sense.
Now we can imagine a Roman Catholic maintaining that if the contract is solemnized by a priest according to certain forms peculiar to their church, it is binding on their conscience, though void in law. But how a marriage, which only pretends to be a Protestant marriage, can be binding on the conscience, if it has no force or effect whatever by the law of the Protestant state to which the parties belong, and in which the solemnity takes place, appears utterly incomprehensible. Among the inconsistent things stated by Mr. Langdale, we repeatedly find it assumed that the Roman Church holds the ceremony to be binding on the conscience, because it is according to the course pursued in the country; at least his statements resolve themselves into this. But then, if it has no legal force, and especially if it only binds the conscience of one of the parties, how can it bind the conscience of the other? It surely cannot be meant to contend that the mere consent of parties before witnesses makes a marriage binding in the Catholic Church, without any regard to the capacity of the parties to contract it;—and how is that capacity to be ascertained except by the law ? Now what law is to determine it? Mr. Langdale must, to have even the shadow of consistency, maintain that the law of the Romish Church is to determine. But then he says that law only requires a consent before wit
Will he maintain that the presence of a priest is unnecessary ? That he never can do since the Council of Trent. But must it not be a Catholic priest? He dares not say that, because Mrs. Fitzherbert was married by a Protestant clergyman. But at the date of the marriage this was required by the law of England, and without a clergyman the marriage was void. Then it was only a marriage binding by the law of the Catholic Church, in so far as it was a marriage good by the law of England; and by that law the consent of the King was just as necessary as the presence of a clergyman.
Mr. Langdale is clearly misled by the undeniable fact that marriage is in the eye of the Romish Church a sacrament; and hence those who are married regard the dissolution of the contract as impossible, unless by Papal authority; and regard a
divorce by Act of Parliament as having no power to release them from the obligations which they have contracted. But it is a sacrament only because it is a marriage; and it is a marriage only because the law of the country makes it such. Would Mr. Langdale regard the vows of parties as constituting a marriage and a sacrament, if either were married at the time to another? Certainly not; and why? Because such a ceremony would be a form void of all legal substance.
But there prevails an error of the most gross description through the whole of Mr. Langdale's statements, as well as of Lord Stourton's; and it is fatal to their argument in favour of their kinswoman, or, if they please, of their Church, which they are pleased to regard as committed by her conduct and opinions. Suppose all they contend for to be true as regards the obligations of the marriage; suppose that Mrs. Fitzherbert, having contracted a marriage void by the English law, was still by the law of the Church bound to regard it as obligatory on her, as binding her conscience, it surely could confer no rights whatever. They admit that it gave no rights of a temporal kind. But could it give any of a spiritual kind ? Because she was bound, and the Prince free, did it follow that she had a right to act as if both were bound ? But suppose the Prince was a Roman Catholic, and bound as well as herself, surely no one can contend that this common obligation superseded the law of the land, and converted concubinage into marriage. Observe, too, that the converse of the proposition must be equally admitted, if we admit that the marriage because binding by the Romish religion gives the religious rights. A marriage between first cousins requires to its validity by that religion a Papal dispensation. Will it be contended that such a marriage without dispensation has no obligatory force on the conscience if ever so valid by law, and ever so solemnly contracted ? Then a dispensation is sufficient to make any marriage between blood relations valid by the law of the Church. Will it be contended that a marriage between brother and sister, or father and daughter, having a dispensation, is binding on the conscience of the parties? There is no end of the absurd consequences to which the notions of these parties tend. But we
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