Adnax Publications

César de Saussure - Letters from London (1725-1730)
translated by Paul Scott

 

LETTER II

LONDON, September 17, 1725.

London — The author gets lost — The Court of London — Palace of St James — Drawing-room or circle — About George I, King of England — Of the Prince of Wales and family — The Park of St James — Westminster Abbey — Tombs of the kings — Houses of Parliament — House of Peers — House of Commons — The King goes in state to Parliament — the King's livery.

You send me word, Sir, that the long letter, which I had the pleasure of writing to you a few days after my arrival here, pleased you, and that it has made you wish for further letters describing the curious things that I see, and telling you of the most interesting and remarkable things on my travels. I must tell you that this is a difficult commission for a pen as ill-tutored as mine, and I hesitate to do as you ask, fearing to do so in a way that you might find uninteresting, rather than in a way to entertain you. Still, there is nothing I can refuse you, I must submit to your desires. I will therefore work to satisfy your curiosity, as best I can.

I wanted to know London well before writing to you, to be in a better position to speak to you in an assured manner and to describe things in detail, as you have requested. This is the reason why I have delayed somewhat in giving you my news.

I have heard several travellers and several scholars here declare that London is undoubtedly the largest and most populous city in the whole of Europe. It is ten miles long from Millbank to Blackwall, and about three miles wide from Southwark to Moorfields; it contains more than one million souls, and about 24 or 25 thousand people die each year. The streets are long, wide, and straight, some of them being more than a mile in length. On either side of the street near the houses the ground is raised and paved with large flat stones, which serve as a footway, which is bordered at intervals by large oak posts and in some places by pillars of stone, to prevent horses and carriages from mounting there, and for the safety of those who go by foot. The City of London itself is not very large, being not much more than three miles in circumference. It is inclosed by stone walls and gates; but so many houses have been built around, especially on the western side, that London has been joined to Westminster, which was formerly two miles distant. The space between consisted of fields and pastures, but now the two places form one and the same town. The part which is surrounded by walls is called the City. It is inhabited by merchants and it is there that the great trade is conducted; the other part is called the Liberty of Westminster, and here you will find the Court, and the peers and noblemen and other persons of distinction.

A few days after my arrival the size of London was the cause of an unpleasant experience. Wishing one evening to walk in the park (of which I will tell you shortly), and having already visited it a couple of times in company, I thought I would be able to find my way there and back alone. I stayed there until 10 o’clock, enjoying the fine weather, the charming walks and the good company, because there was at that time a great crowd of the beau monde. When I wanted to go home again by the way I had come, across the Mews, a large square occupied by the king’s stables, I found the gates closed, which disconcerted me a little. I tried to get my bearings and to find the district in which I was living by making a detour, but I walked for more than an hour without recognising anything and without being able to ask the way, because I did not at that time speak a word of English. I very much wanted to hire a cab, but I realised that I would not be able to tell the driver where to take me. I made the decision therefore to walk from street to street until I found something that I recognised. But after having walked for more than an hour, I realised that I was in a district which was entirely unknown to me. It was past midnight; there was almost nobody in the streets; I was extremely tired and I did not know what to do. In this difficult situation, I decided to sit down on a bench outside a shop and there patiently wait for the day to dawn. I had been sitting there for about half an hour when two gentlemen passed who were speaking in French. I believed they were two angels sent to rescue me: I hastened over to them and explained my situation, asking them to take me, or have me taken, back to the district in which I was staying. They questioned me where I was lodging, which I could not tell them, not having taken the precaution to learn the name of the street, or rather not being able to remember it. After several questions; such as, from which country did I come? since when had I been in London? who did I know? it so happened that one of these gentlemen lived close to one of my friends whose name I had given and that my place of lodging was not far from their house. We walked together for more than two miles before arriving there. Since then I have not risked going astray in the streets again, particularly at night.

On the Sunday following my arrival a friend took me to the Court. It was around midday that we arrived at St James's Palace. We passed through a series of rooms in which there were a great number of noblemen and officers awaiting the opening of the doors to the King's apartments. As soon as they were opened, everybody pressed inside, and we were unable to follow on account of the crowd. We therefore made our way to a gallery through which the Court must needs pass to go to the chapel. We had not long to wait: there appeared first of all Six Yeomen of the Guard (who are like the Hundred Swiss of Versailles) dressed after the antique fashion. They carried halberds on their shoulders, and walked two by two. They were followed by several gentlemen of the Court, walking one behind the other, including the Duke of Grafton, the King's Chamberlain, and the Duke of Dorset, Master of the King's Household, each carrying a long white wand indicating his office; and then several lords and Gentlemen of the Bedchamber. Two sergeants-at-arms, or mace-bearers, followed, carrying their maces on their shoulders, these being of silver-gilt, surmounted by crowns of the same precious metal. A nobleman of the Court followed, carrying the sword of state. This sword is a sort of very long and broad sabre; the scabbard is of crimson velvet, the hilt of massive gold, enriched with some precious stones. It is not always the same lord who carries it, but rather at one time one, at another time another. The King then appeared, followed by the three Princesses who reside with the King in the Palace of St James; they are the Prince of Wales' three eldest daughters. Each of these young Princesses was escorted by her squire, the train of her dress being carried by pages. About ten Gentlemen Pensioners closed the procession.

These gentlemen compose the King's special bodyguard, and consist of about forty persons not counting their officers; their dress is of scarlet, with braidings of gold. They carry small halberds or Polish axes in their hands covered with crimson velvet, and ornamented with big, silver-gilt nails. They mount guard only on Sundays and on certain holidays, to accompany the king to the chapel, only half their number being normally on duty. These places can be purchased, and bring in about 100 pounds sterling. One thing that surprised me was that everyone made a profound reverence or bow as the King went by, which he acknowledged by a slight inclination of the head. The English do not consider their King to be so very much above them that they dare not salute him, as in France ; they have a profound respect for him, are greatly attached to him, and are sincerely faithful to him. I speak, of course, of those who favour the Court and the reigning family, for there are in England many different political parties, of which I will speak later. They even have the custom, to mark their attachment to the King, to drink his health with the first glass of wine drunk at the dessert or after the meal.

Whilst the King was at the Chapel we visited the interior of the Palace, which is very old, and said to have been built by Cardinal Wolsey in the reign of Henry VIII. This Palace does not give you the impression from outside of being the residence of a great king, but it is nevertheless a large and roomy building. In the first courtyard, a company of foot soldiers mount guard; there is a covered way from the great door to the great stairs, which is a convenience if the weather is bad, because no other carriage than the king’s can enter this courtyard. Also to be seen here is the rib of a whale, which is at least 20 feet long, fastened to the wall by iron crampons. Above the grand staircase is a room which is that of the Yeomen. It is filled with all sorts of arms: guns, pistols, swords, and halberds and so on, beautifully arranged in perfect order. The next room is that of the Gentlemen Pensioners, called the Presence Chamber, which is furnished with a tapestry which, though very old, is nevertheless quite beautiful.

A further room leads off from here, where the Lords of the Court await the opening of the King's apartments, which are to the left. The King's chambers consist firstly of a big room which leads into the bedchamber, in which the king’s bed stands in a sort of alcove, shut off from the rest of the room by a balustrade of gilded wood so that it is not possible to get close. It is covered with crimson velvet, braided and embroidered in gold. Adjoining this room are two closets, one being bigger than the other. To the right of the great ante chamber is found the apartment where the Drawing Room or Circle is held, of which I will tell you shortly. This is where the King gives audiences to ambassadors. In these two chambers there are thrones, which consist of a canopy under which a great armchair is placed together with a footstool, everything being covered in purple velvet bordered with gold and silver braid.

All these rooms look on to the gardens which are situated at one side of the park, and are hung with magnificent but very old tapestries. On the walls I saw many excellent paintings, mostly originals; the chandeliers are of silver, many of them of silver-gilt. I will not speak of the other appartments, because I have not seen them. Inside the Palace enclosure are two chapels, one of these, the Royal Chapel, is small and in no way remarkable. It is here that every Sunday and Holiday the King attends divine service, the whole of which is set to music and intoned by ecclesiastics, who are supported by several laymen singers, some of whom have very fine voices, by a dozen choirboys, and by several excellent musicians, the whole forming a very beautiful symphony. The second chapel is much finer and larger, and was built by Queen Catherine, wife of Charles II, for the use of the Roman Catholics. French and Dutch Protestants now use this chapel.

At about two o'clock we returned to the apartment of the Circle, called the Drawing-room, and found it already filled with ladies and gentlemen. On leaving the chapel the King appeared there with the three young Princesses; he was immediately surrounded by a circle of persons all standing up, there being no chairs in the room, lest anyone should be guilty of seating themselves. The King at first went to the end of the room and talked with some foreign ministers for a few minutes. He then did the round of the circle, saying a few words to each of the lords and ladies he recognised. I noticed that when three ladies were presented to him, he kissed them all affectionately on the lips, paying particular attention to one who was very pretty. Do not let this kiss on the lips scandalise you; it is the custom in this country, and there are even several ladies who would be displeased if a man should attempt to kiss their cheek instead; they would believe that he feared to find a breath which was not agreeable. There are nevertheless some ladies, particularly those who have travelled outside England, who offer their cheeks instead. But to return to the Circle: a moment after the king arrived, the Prince and Princess of Wales also arrived; I was surprised at this, for I know that the King and the Prince are not on good terms. The Prince and Princess, together with Prince William, their youngest son, and the two youngest Princesses, live in a mansion belonging to Lord Leicester, which they rent. As soon as the Princess of Wales entered the drawing-room the King went close to her to greet her, spoke to her for a long time, and treated her most graciously. But the King and the Prince exchanged not a word: they even avoided going near each other.

Three Drawing-rooms are held every week, one on Sundays from 2 till 3, and the other two on Mondays and Fridays from 8 till 10 or 11 in the evening. These evening Circles are much better, for the apartments are magnificently lighted, and above all because usually more ladies attend them, and the latter are always an ornament to any assembly. The Princess of Wales normally plays at Ombre on Monday and Friday evenings, while the King, the Prince of Wales and the three older Princesses talk with the lords and ladies who form the Circle.

You will be interested, I think, to know more about the King, the Prince and Princess, and their children.

The King is about 65 years of age; he is not tall, being shorter than average, and he is rather fat, but this does not impede his movement. His cheeks droop a little and his eyes are a little too big. He has a good and gracious air, though those of the English who do not like him say he is not generous. He nevertheless gives allowances to a great number of people. He is spirited and discerning; he understands his affairs very well and he is well informed of the different interests of the various courts of Europe. He is not an enemy of the pleasures of life, above all those of the hunt and the table, but he does not surrender himself to them to the point of causing himself problems. He often invites five or six Lords or Generals to an intimate supper, and during the meal, gaiety and liberty reign supreme. The king is galant, and has a mistress, who, according to rumour, he has married with his left hand. She is the sister of General de Schulembourg, who is in the service of the Republic of Venice. She was made Duchess of Kendal and of Munster in Ireland, and is a handsome, well-built woman with a reputation for charity and benevolence. Though the king is very fond of her, he is nevertheless sometimes unfaithful, and he has from time to time passing intrigues.

The Prince of Wales is about 43 years old. He is a little taller than the King, and not as fat; he is in fact well proportioned; he has large, protruding eyes, looks serious, even grave, and likes finery, being always richly dressed. It is said that he does not socialise much, that he is not as affable as his father the King, that he has a lively temperament, and is easily angered.

The Princess of Wales is about 41 years of age, and is of the House of Brandenburg-Anspach. She was one of the most beautiful princesses in Europe, signs of which are still about her, but she has grown a little too stout. She is witty and well-read, and speaks four or five different languages, and she is very gracious and very amiable, besides being charitable and kind; nevertheless many of the English who are not attached to the House of Hanover complain that she is too economical for a Princess of Wales. When the King and his son disagreed, and the King ordered the latter to leave the Palace, he did what he could to persuade the Princess to remain with him, but she absolutely insisted on following her husband, who, it is said, often causes her little vexations by his excessive liveliness (to say no more). The presently reigning Charles VI wanted to marry her, but the Princess never wanted to entertain the idea, because this would have entailed her changing her religion.

The Prince and Princess of Wales have seven children —two sons and five daughters. Prince Frederick, the eldest son, was brought up in Hanover, and he still resides there, but I will not talk to you of him because I have not seen him. The King has about him in his palace the three older children of the Prince of Wales, called Anne, Amelia, and Caroline. Princess Anne is very pale, and would be good-looking were she not marked with small-pox. It is said that she has many good qualities, despite having some of the hauteur of her father. She is about sixteen years of age. Princess Amelia, a handsome blonde with charming features, is fourteen years of age. It is said that she is good, pleasant and above all very charitable. Her sister, Princess Caroline, who carries the name of her mother, is a very pretty girl with very dark hair, who is not yet thirteen, but is tall and strong for her age, and, in fact, fully a woman. The Prince and Princess of Wales have another three children who they keep with them: the young Prince William, aged five, Princess Mary, aged three, and the youngest of them all, Princess Louisa, who is only a year old.

After the King, the Prince and the Princesses had left the circle, we went to walk in St James' Park, which is in front of the Palace. Much longer than it is wide, this park forms a sort of triangle which is probably about three miles round. A beautiful wide canal running from one end to the other divides it in two; and two avenues of great trees run along either side. At one end of the park is a square called the Parade, for every morning at 10 o’clock a battalion of the foot-guards parade in this place, and from thence proceed to mount guard before St James's Palace, before the Prince of Wales's mansion, at the Tower and at various other places. Along one side of the Palace is a magnificent place for the game of pall-mall, which extends the entire length of the park, and is bordered on either side by a double row of trees. This place is no longer used for the game, but is a promenade, and every spring it is bestrewn with tiny sea-shells, which are then crushed by means of an iron roller. St James' Park contains several other great avenues of elm and lime trees, which form admirable promenades, two large fishponds or lakes, and a pretty little island formed by divers canals; in a word, this is an enchanting spot, particularly in summer time. The beau monde comes to walk here in summer, from 7 to 10 in the evening, and in winter from 1 to 3 o'clock. There is sometimes such a crowd in the Mall that a man can hardly walk without bumping into people. In short, English men and women are fond of the promenade, and a great number attend, some to see, others to be seen, and others to seek their fortunes; for many priestesses of Venus are to be found there, some of them magnificently attired, and all on the look-out to catch some inexperienced young fellow, who will not be long in repenting that they have become acquainted with such beautiful and amiable nymphs. The canal and fishponds are virtually covered with ducks and geese, which though of a wild species are nevertheless tame, having been bred and raised in the park. There are also sometimes some deer and roe-deer which are so tame that they eat out of the hands of those who bring them bread or other things. If a man were to hit another in the park, or in the whole enclosure of the Palace of St James’, the law condemns the aggressor to lose a hand. It is also a privileged place where a person cannot be stopped for debt.

I intend in this letter to take you on a little walk in order to show you or describe to you a part of the most curious sights of London. Imagine therefore that we are at the Palace of St James and that we want to go to Westminster Abbey. We only have to cross the Park and a couple of dirty, narrow streets and we find ourselves there. It is an ancient collegiate church, built in the form of a cross and in the gothic style, dedicated originally to St Peter. It is still called an abbey today because, in Catholic times, it was a Benedictine monastery, the monks having now given place to well endowed Canons.

The principal entrance is on the west; the interior is long and narrow, and the roof supported by two rows of massive columns. The Canons celebrate divine service in a small enclosed space like the choir of the Cathedral of Lausanne. As in all the other cathedrals, colleges, and chapels of the King, the service is entirely set to music.

Kings are crowned in this church, and here they also have their sepulchres, along with those of many noblemen, generals, admirals and scholars of the first rank. In the northern aisle, I saw the tombs of many noblemen, among them those of the Dukes of Newcastle; that of the last Duke of the Holles family, now extinct, is particularly magnificent, for it is very tall and ornamented with statues, low reliefs and columns of the finest marble. The tombs of scholars, poets and other famous people are in the southern aisle, amongst them being those of Milton, Shakespeare, Prior, Dryden, St Evremond and several others. In a word, this church is full of tombs and it is possible to spend several hours agreeably in examining the statues and ornaments, which in the main are carried out with a great deal of delicacy and taste and in reading the epitaphs, which are all in either latin of english, some of them being highly curious.

Let us now visit the sepulchres of the kings. It is necessary to give sixpence to one of the guards to gain access, and then this guard will explain all the most interesting things, holding a wand in his hand. But he will do it so quickly that for somebody who does not understand English too well, it is almost impossible to follow him in everything he is saying, and so I will only speak of what struck me the most forcibly and of what I remember best.

Our guide took us behind the choir of the church and into two or three chapels full of tombs of the old kings, queens and first nobles of the kingdom. I saw nothing very remarkable here, apart from the tomb and statue of a young girl, about 12 years of age, that our man told us was one of the daughters of Henry V, who died from pricking her thumb with a needle whilst embroidering. They must have been highly unskilled surgeons in those days.

We then passed into a chapel which is directly behind the choir of the church, and which is called the Chapel Royal, because this is where kings are consecrated. Here we saw the tombs of 5 or 6 ancient kings, which were without statues, without ornaments and with long latin epitaphs. On the tomb of Edward I there was an epée or two handed sword, which is 7 or 8 feet long with a massive shield which one man can hardly lift; we told very gravely that these were the arms of this king, but they looked more like the arms of Goliath. We also saw in this chapel an old armchair of gilded wood done in an antique style on which the king is consecrated, and which is covered and trimmed with crimson velvet for the ceremony. A great stone is set beneath the seat of this venerable armchair; we were assured that it was the same which served as a pillow for Jacob when he had his dream. Admit that you did not expect to find such a relic in a Protestant church, for these institutions are not much given to displaying this type of saintly knick knack. However, it cannot be doubted that this stone is kept with a great deal of care, ever since the English took it from the Scots a few centuries ago.

From this royal chapel we passed to that of Henry VII, which this prince had built at great expense, to be his sepulchre. It is magnificent. On every side there is sculpture and low relief of all kinds, on wood and on stone. There are even some on the seats of the Canons which are highly indecent, but as these figures are small, few people see them. In this chapel we saw the tomb of Henry VII and his wife, Elisabeth; these monuments are of massive bronze, as are the statues which lie on the tombs. From there we passed into another small chapel where we saw the tomb of the famous Queen Elisabeth, of Edward VI and of Marie Stuart, mother of James I. The tomb of Queen Elisabeth is all bronze and is surrounded by a balustrade in the same metal, which forms a royal crown. We were next led into a sort of room where there was a great wardrobe in which we saw the wax figures of King William III and his wife, Queen Mary, which were perfect likenesses. We were told that the royal clothes worn by these figures were the same as those used by this king and his queen when they were crowned, except that the precious stones and the pearls, with which the figures are decorated, are false. We also saw in other wardrobes the wax figures of Charles II, of General Monk and of a Duchess of Richmond, which figure was a perfect beauty.

I think we have been long enough with the dead and their sepulchres. Let us leave them and go to see the building in which Parliament assembles, which is only a few steps from Westminster Abbey, across a small square. It was in ancient times a great and vast royal palace, which was destroyed by fire. Only the very large hall called Westminster Hall was saved, together with a few appartments. The Hall is about 280 feet long and 50 feet wide. On either side are book stalls, dealers in jewellery and sellers of pictures, prints and other things. Above these shops there are many flags and standards taken at different times from the enemies of England. At the back of the hall on the west side are the two principal tribunals of justice. One is the High Court of Chancery, where the Lord Chancellor is the sole judge, though he has some assistants called Masters of the Chancellery with whom he sometimes consults. The other, the King’s Bench, has four judges, who sometimes try criminal cases and generally everything which concerns the Crown. There is a third tribunal which sits at the other end of the Hall, close by the main entrance, called the Court of Common Pleas, also composed of four judges, who try civil cases.

A curious custom is that the Lord Chancellor and the judges of the other two tribunals, hold in their hands great bouquets of natural flowers. Apparently it is so that the fragrance keeps them awake during pleading. When these courts are open and sitting, the Hall is so full of people, of plaintiffs and above all of lawyers and barristers, with their long wigs, hatless and wearing long black robes, that it is hardly possible to get through. Between the two first courts is a staircase which leads to a great door which in turn leads to a fine, large, newly built room called the Court of Requests, where the lords of the Chamber of Peers and the members of the Lower Chamber walk to relax, when the sittings are long. Adjoining this room are two or three coffee-rooms and an eating place, where they go to refresh themselves with whatever they need. In this room there are several portable shops belonging to jewellers and booksellers. Next to the Court of Requests there is another room where servants wait for their masters, at the end of which there is a corridor which leads to the Chamber of Peers or Lords.

This Chamber is large, and longer than it is broad. At the back there is a large canopy covered in purple velvet braided and fringed with gold and silver. The arms of England are embroidered in relief on the front with divers ornaments. A great armchair underneath this canopy stands on a platform raised by several steps; a very low footstool with a great cushion set on it waits before the armchair; it is designed to give rest to the king’s feet, should he so wish. The armchair, the footstool and the cushion are covered with purple velvet, and fringed with gold and silver braid, as the canopy. The platform and the steps are covered with a large Turkish carpet. Such is the throne of the king. The Prince of Wales sits at his right hand on a chair without arms next to that of the king, but one step lower. On the left of the throne, there is another chair for the Duke of York, the king’s brother, arranged in the same way and at the same height as that of the Prince of Wales. They are both covered with purple velvet fringed with gold and silver braid.

The two archbishops seat themselves on a little bench to the right of the throne, set against the wall and finishing at the fireplace. Beyond this again, still on the same wall, are two long benches for the bishops. The dukes, marquises and earls sit on three tiered benches to the left of the throne. These benches are set against the wall and run the whole length of the chamber. Several other benches, set facing and sideways on to the throne, fill the rest of the chamber and serve to seat the viscounts and the barons. Between the throne and the nearest benches there are six large, long woolsacks. The Lord Chancellor, who is president of this chamber, sits on the first, which is at the foot of the throne. The great judges of the kingdom, the Councillors of State and the Masters of Chancery sit on the others, even though they do not have a right to vote. The last is for the clerks and secretaries, who have in front of them a large square table covered with a Turkey cloth. All these benches are stuffed and covered with red cloth, as are the woolsacks, which are placed there from long usage, to remind Parliament of the great advantages which England derives from her wools and to encourage Parliament itself to support this branch of her commerce. The chamber is hung with four tapestries, which it is claimed Mary Queen of Scots had made during her long imprisonment and on which it is said she worked herself. It is all silk and represents the famous fleet called The Invincible which Philippe II sent against Queen Elisabeth. It is an immense work, showing the fleet equipping itself, the fleet leaving the ports in Spain, the fleet sailing before the wind and finally the fleet dispersed and perishing in the storm and by its enemies.

Let us now visit the House of Commons. The chamber is almost square. Most of the benches are tiered so that more people can be accommodated. Each person takes whatever place he will, without any observation of rank. Only the Speaker or President of the Chamber sits in an armchair which is a little raised and which is placed in the middle of the chamber. The clerks and secretaries sit beneath him in front of a table. The room and the benches are draped and covered with green cloth. Inside the chamber there is a gallery in which lords, and others, who are permitted to enter to hear the debate, may sit. Apart from these two rooms about which I have just spoken, there are several more in this old palace, for example the painted chamber, where conferences of the comissioners of the lords and commons are held, an apartment for the king, another for the Prince of Wales and a third for the lords, where they put on their robes and ceremonial costumes.

About a month after my arrival here, the King went to adjourn Parliament. I was fortunate enough with the help of one of my friends to get in and to see the entire ceremony, and as it is well worth relating. Here is a description of what happened. The lords and members of the commons went to their respective chambers at about midday. The former put on their ceremonial robes, which are very long and ample, of scarlet bordered with ermine. Those of the dukes have on the sleeves from the shoulder to the elbow five bands of gold braid crossways, separated by as many bands of ermine. The earls have three, and the viscounts and barons, two. Those who are members of the Order of the Garter, or of the Thistle, wear over their robes the golden collars of their orders, fastened to their shoulders with large black ribbons. The ecclesiastical lords are in their episcopal costumes; they wear ample white surplices of cambric, over which they wear a sash. Instead of a hat, they wear flat, square black caps, on which there is a big crest of black silk. It is worth remarking that the lords never wear these robes except when the king visits Parliament. About a quarter of an hour before he arrives, the Grand Chamberlain of the King’s Household, together with some lower officials visits all the cellars and appartments of the ancient Palace of Westminster, a custom always observed since the famous and horrible gunpowder plot, of which you know about. The king usually leaves his palace of St James at about one o’clock. This is his cortege:

Two grenadiers on horseback begin the procession, followed by three of four carriages of the king, his paages, then four mace bearers or sergeants at arms. Two of his valets de chambre and other officers follow. Then comes a detachment of about a dozen grenadier guards on horseback, followed by about twenty Yeomen, carrying their halberds on their shoulders and marching two by two. After these come twenty-four footmen, with swords at their sides, canes in their hands, in scarlet livery, and wearing green doublets with blue facings, braided on the seams with two rows of gold braid, between which is one of blue velvet. Instead of a hat they always wear a small black velvet cap, which they never take off.

Then comes the state coach of the king, drawn by eight superb horses, which, far from being heavy coach horses, are fine, nimble animals, more suited for the saddle or the parade than for the yoke; the harnesses are very rich, as are all their other ornaments. This carriage is very large, the whole framework is composed of carved giltwood, the doors boast very fine paintings; the front and sides have large mirrors, the back and the roof are both lined with red leather fixed by gilt nails, the interior is crimson velvet braided with gold and with large gold fringes. Please note, the king only makes use of this magnificent carriage when he goes in state to parliament. Four yeomen of the guard walk on each side of the carriage, and a detachment of about 40 horse guards with their officers bring up the rear. A great mass of people, here called the ‘mob’, which means the low populace, follow on each side of the king’s carriage, shouting ‘Hurrah!’ and throwing their hats in the air, which is the way the English say ‘vive le roi’. Usually two lords ride with the king in his carriage, one is his Grand Equerry and the other his Gentleman of the Chamber. At exactly the moment when the king puts his foot on the ground and again when he gets back into his carriage to return, a twenty one gun salute is fired from cannon aimed at the other side of the river, opposite the Houses of Parliament (I forgot to tell you that this palace is situated on the banks of the Thames).

The Lord Chancellor and the four lords of the House of Peers go to receive the king at the foot of the stairs and show him to his own apartment, where he puts on a long velvet robe of crimson velvet bordered with ermine. The collar of the Order of the Garter is put on his shoulders and the royal crown, made out of gold and enriched with precious stones, is put on his head. His cap is of crimson velvet. He then passes into the Chamber of Peers, preceded by the four mace bearers or sergeants at arms, carrying their maces on their right shoulders, followed by a lord carrying the sword of state and the chancellor. This last has now put on his ceremonial robes, black velvet braided and fringed with gold along the sleeves, and carries in his hand a large bag containing the great seal. This bag is a square, scarlet velvet pocket, on which are embroidered in gold and silver the arms of England. He must carry it on every occasion that he appears as Lord Chancellor. Two mace bearers stand either side of the throne, and remain kneeling all the time the king sits there. As soon as the king is seated, the Lord Chancellor orders on behalf of the king that a messenger of the Lords should be sent to call in the Chamber of Commons.

In the description I gave you of the Chamber of Peers I forgot to tell you that beyond the last bench arranged across the chamber where the barons sit, there is a fairly large space, without seats and separated by a wooden balustrade, called the Bar. Above this space is a large gallery which is usually occupied when the king goes to parliament by ministers of foreign countries and ladies of the court. The members of the lower House, having at their head their Speaker or President, come to the Upper House and remain standing in the space beyond the Bar. There, the Speaker, in a robe of scarlet, makes a speech to the king, in which he reports in brief what his Chamber has done during that sitting. The titles of the bills passed by the two Chambers are read to the king from great vellum or parchment rolls, to which the king gives his assent, indicated by the clerk of Parliament (Recorder) who says in French, or rather, old Norman, le Roi le veult, or soit fait comme il est désiré. A secretary writes this at the bottom of each bill. After that, the Lord Chancellor, standing, reads the King’s Speech, in which he approves what the two Chambers have done during their session. He thanks the Commons in particular for the subsidies they have voted for the year, then finishes by announcing the adjournment of parliament until a specified time, permitting each member of the two Chambers to retire to his own county or province whenever he should want to do so. Queen Anne always read her own speech, but as the reigning king does not speak English, his Chancellor reads it for him. Finally, I will not stretch to give you an exact idea of the Parliament in England. If you are interested in knowing more about the Constitution, the laws, the rights and the privileges which form the two Chambers, the formalities and the way things are done, I recommend that you read The Present State of Great Britain by Chamberlaine, which has been translated into French. He will teach you more than I can.

Besides I am not writing a book, but a very long letter which I must now close, assuring you that I am with all my heart,

Sir,

Your very humble and very obedient servant,


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