Reminiscences of Captain Gronow

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Author: R. H. Gronow

Mrs. Mary Anne Clarke and Col. Wardle

Amongst those who paid great attention to Mrs. Mary Anne Clarke was Colonel Wardle, at that time a remarkable member of the House of Commons, and a bold leader of the Radical Opposition. He got intimately acquainted with her, and was so great a personal favourite that it was believed he wormed out all her secret history, of which he availed himself to obtain a fleeting popularity.

Having obtained the names of some of the parties who had been fortunate enough, as they imagined, to secure the lady’s favour, he loudly demanded an inquiry in the House of Commons as to the management of the army by the Commander-in-Chief, the Duke of York. The nation and the army were fond of his Royal Highness, and every attempt to screen him was made; but in vain. The House undertook the task of investigating the conduct of the duke, and witnesses were produced, amongst whom was the fair lady herself, who by no means attempted to screen her imprudent admirer. Her responses to the questions put to her were cleverly and archly given, and the whole mystery of her various intrigues came to light. The duke consequently resigned his place in the Horse Guards, and at the same time repudiated the beautiful and dangerous cause of his humiliation. The lady, incensed at the desertion of her royal swain, announced her intention of publishing his love-letters, which were likely to expose the whole of the royal family to ridicule, as they formed the frequent themes of his correspondence. Sir Herbert Taylor was therefore commissioned to enter into a negotiation for the purchase of the letters; this he effected at an enormous price, obtaining a written document at the same time by which Mrs. Clarke was subjected to heavy penalties if she, by word or deed, implicated the honour of any of the branches of the royal family. A pension was secured to her, on condition that she should quit England, and reside wherever she chose on the Continent. To all this she consented, and, in the first instance, went to Brussels, where her previous history being scarcely known, she was well received; and she married her daughters without any inquiry as to the fathers to whom she might ascribe them.

Mrs. Clarke afterwards settled quietly and comfortably in Paris, receiving occasionally visits from members of the aristocracy who had known her when mingling in a certain circle in London. The Marquis of Londonderry never failed to pay his respects to her, entertaining a very high opinion of her talents. Her manners were exceedingly agreeable, and to the latest day she retained pleasing traces of past beauty. She was lively, sprightly, and full of fun, and indulged in innumerable anecdotes of the members of the royal family of England - some of them much too scandalous to be repeated. She regarded the Duke of York as a big baby, not out of his leading-strings, and the Prince of Wales as an idle sensualist, with just enough of brains to be guided by any laughing, well-bred individual who would listen to stale jokes and impudent ribaldry. Of Queen Charlotte she used to speak with the utmost disrespect, attributing to her a love of domination and a hatred of every one who would not bow down before any idol that she chose to set up; and as being envious of the Princess Caroline and her daughter the Princess Charlotte of Wales, and jealous of their acquiring too much influence over the Prince of Wales. In short, Mary Anne Clarke had been so intimately let into every secret of the life of the royal family that, had she not been tied down, her revelations would have astonished the world, however willing the people might have been to believe that they were tinged with scandal and exaggeration.

The way in which Colonel Wardle first obtained information of the sale of commissions was singular enough: he was paying a clandestine visit to Mrs. Clarke, when a carriage with the royal livery drove up to the door, and the gallant officer was compelled to take refuge under the sofa; but instead of the royal duke, there appeared one of his aide-de-camps, who entered into conversation in so mysterious a manner as to excite the attention of the gentleman under the sofa, and led him to believe that the sale of a commission was authorised by the Commander-in-Chief; though it afterwards appeared that it was a private arrangement of the unwelcome visitor. At the Horse-Guards, it had often been suspected that there was a mystery connected with commissions that could not be fathomed; as it frequently happened that the list of promotions agreed on was surreptitiously increased by the addition of new names. This was the crafty handiwork of the accomplished dame; the duke having employed her as his amanuensis, and being accustomed to sign her autograph lists without examination.

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Chicago: R. H. Gronow, "Mrs. Mary Anne Clarke and Col. Wardle," Reminiscences of Captain Gronow, ed. F. N. Maude and trans. Oliver Elton in Reminiscences of Captain Gronow (New York: Norroena Society, 1857), Original Sources, accessed September 25, 2022, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=L1K5CDY59EUPFGJ.

MLA: Gronow, R. H. "Mrs. Mary Anne Clarke and Col. Wardle." Reminiscences of Captain Gronow, edited by F. N. Maude, and translated by Oliver Elton, in Reminiscences of Captain Gronow, New York, Norroena Society, 1857, Original Sources. 25 Sep. 2022. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=L1K5CDY59EUPFGJ.

Harvard: Gronow, RH, 'Mrs. Mary Anne Clarke and Col. Wardle' in Reminiscences of Captain Gronow, ed. and trans. . cited in 1857, Reminiscences of Captain Gronow, Norroena Society, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 25 September 2022, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=L1K5CDY59EUPFGJ.