Tuesday, October 26, 2010

George III Crowned

From "Redgauntlet":

'I have often heard,' said Darsie, 'that a female, supposed to be a man in disguise,--and yet, Lilias, you do not look very masculine,--had taken up the champion's gauntlet at the present king's coronation, and left in its place a gage of battle, with a paper, offering to accept the combat, provided a fair field should be allowed for it. I have hitherto considered it as an idle tale. I little thought how nearly I was interested in the actors of a scene so daring. How could you have courage to go through with it?'

On October 26, 1760, the first King that would rule during Sir Walter Scott's lifetime was crowned king of England and Ireland.  His father George II died the day before.  George William Frederick Hanover's reign lasted 60 years. 

Early in George's career, there were stories that Bonnie Prince Charlie returned to London, mostly to visit a mistress, but as Walter Scott portrays, as a last attempt to claim his throne.  "Redgauntlet" includes this note about George III's coronation:


In excuse of what may be considered as a violent infraction of probability in this chapter, the author is under the necessity of quoting a tradition which many persons may recollect having heard. It was always said, though with very little appearance of truth, that upon the Coronation of the late George III, when the champion of England, Dymock, or his representative, appeared in Westminster Hall, and in the language of chivalry solemnly wagered his body to defend in single combat the right of the young King to the crown of these realms, at the moment when he flung down his gauntlet as the gage of battle, an unknown female stepped from the crowd and lifted the pledge, leaving another gage in room of it, with a paper expressing, that if a fair field of combat should be allowed, a champion of rank and birth would appear with equal arms to dispute the claim of King George to the British kingdoms. The story is probably one of the numerous fictions which were circulated to keep up the spirits of a sinking faction, The incident was, however, possible, if it could be supposed to be attended by any motive adequate to the risk, and might be imagined to occur to a person of Redgauntlet's enthusiastic character. George III, it is said, had a police of his own, whose agency was so efficient, that the sovereign was able to tell his prime minister upon one occasion, to his great surprise, that the Pretender was in London. The prime minister began immediately to talk of measures to be taken, warrants to be procured, messengers and guards to be got in readiness. 'Pooh, pooh,' said the good-natured sovereign, since I have found him out, leave me alone to deal with him.'--'And what,' said the minister, 'is your Majesty's purpose, in so important a case?'--'To leave the young man to himself,' said George III; 'and when he tires he will go back again.' The truth of this story does not depend on that of the lifting of the gauntlet; and while the latter could be but an idle bravado, the former expresses George Ill's goodness of heart and soundness of policy.'

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