From Antwerp

October the 2nd o:s: 1713

By Ruth Herman

Just before I left Frankfurt I received my dear lady’s letter of the 10th of  August and tho I have a great pleasure in learning from you, and writing to you, my journey and the difficulty of sending letters safe made me defer untill now I have so good an opportunity by the Duke of Montagu[1] going for England. When you write your letter I find you were in hopes of some good from what was done? in the P[arliament] concerning the bill of commerce[2] but all the appearance soon vanished and indeed when the first account of it came to us I find that even then, like the knight’s speech which looked to me as if he had some reserve and did not oppose it out of a true regard for the interest of his country and it  proved in a few days he justified the ill opinion which I had of him[3] and which I shall always have of men that pretend to be patriots and to have high points of honour and yet for money marry puncks upon record[4] and if you look around upon all those sort of men you will find they deserve what I say of them and indeed  why should one imagine that men of so ill principles or that have so little sense should not very easily be[gained] to sell their country to any foreign prince as well as to their own.[5] Some of my friends write me word that many Tories are very much offended at the abuses which have been put upon the nation but I can’t see that it will be of much use to us since the generality of the country have agreed so long in supporting this scandalous ministry[6] and are now easy tho they must see that Dunkirk was never intended to be demolished and that it was only designed to make people fond of a peace in which the English have not one advantage.[7] How is it possible for anybody to expect that such a nation will oppose the coming in of the P[rince] Of W[ales].[8] I read lately in Mr Steel’s letter which is a most delightful paper that an advertisement in the Examiner upon the 25 of Sep: [9]  will have more effect upon the gentlemen in England in which he says that these will form the published proposals for a very easy tax to raise between two and three millions of money in the room of the land taxes and in a few years time will have other happy consequences.  I conclude if there is more in this advertisement then to amuse downright fools. They design to tax all the public funds and perhaps settle some way that they may be as in France without parliament and tho I remember in King Charles II time the parliament would not come with measures that made themselves useless one does not dream what landed men may do in such a project that have no sense and those that are determined for the P[rince] of W[ales] to be sure will join with them.

I have heard that your great hero my lord Bolingbroke is very angry with my lord treasurer, that he has not a blue ribbon and indeed I  can’t comprehend why he has not for I think he has deserved as much from him as anybody, and has all  the qualifications for rewards as they have been distributed  of late. [10]  The same letter gave me an account that the Duke of Shrewsbury has disobliged too but if that was so being that it was [to?] in ill will again, I suppose, by his going for Ireland.[11] Naming him puts me in mind of his brother in law who is in Bruxelles and has found out a new way of playing at basset[12]. I don’t know whether you know enough of it to understand what I am going to write. He divides the company in two parts and they sett, and hold the bank to one or other by turns, and the loser at every card is obliged to drink a bumper, this is only to try which of the company fortune will make first drunk and this I think is a very cheap way of playing since it hurts nobody but that company. He came to make the Duke of Marl a mission since we came to this place and I observed that he is not at all like her grace which is not strange or I suppose they had not the same father. [13]

The two little caps I have sent you is to show you the fashion in Germany. I believe it was invented chiefly to save money for all the people there that wear night [clothes] are very dirty and when these hats and caps are not made of white they last a year and they are really very pretty and becoming to children and those that are very young, they dress their heads with a cap to pin their hair upon just as you do in England and they wear little fontanges[14] upon the forehead and the cap, or hat, is put on as high behind as in  Great Brunswick,  looks very well with those that have good hair. I fancy you might not dislike one of them for dear miss, or yourself in the summer when you are alone in the country.

Pray present the Duke of Marl’ and my most humble services to your lord  and if you think this letter very long pray remember how seldom I will write to you and how sincerely  I am my dear lady yours.


[1] The Duke of Montague was the Churchills’ son-in-law, married to their eldest daughter, Mary.  He was generally considered a pleasant man, but Sarah thought he had a juvenile sense of humour.

2 The French commerce bill of 1713 was part of the Treaty of Utrecht.  It was considered vital in establishing relations between France and Britain. However, the bill was defeated in the House of Commons by a mere nine votes and the Whigs began to rise again in popularity in the face of the renewed anti-French Whig propaganda which implied that the Tories were Jacobites. In Richard Steele’s The Englishman, ofSeptember 25, 1713 he makes the case that Britain would end up with an annual deficit of £145,000,000.

[3] Sir Thomas Hanmer had made a speech in April 1713 in which he concluded that he could not return thanks for a peace  while most people could not fathom what the advantages were.

4 In October 1698 Hanmer married Isabella, Countess of Arlington who was ten years his senior. The duchess was deemed vulgar in contrast to the refined Hanmer, ‘tall and handsome’, but reputedly impotent.

[5] Probably a reference to the concessions made to France (i.e. Louis XIV) in the Treaties to end the War of the Spanish Succession.

[6] Much to the Whigs’ disappointment the Tories had a landslide victory in the 1710 election and actually increased their majority in 1713.

[7] By the terms of the peace of Utrecht (1713). Louis XIV promised to destroy Dunkirk’s harbour , a  shelter for  pirates which had plagued British shipping. The Whigs turned the whole episode into a farce by simultaneously claiming that Dunkirk wasn’t that important and also so important that the Tories were not pushing hard enough to have the port destroyed.  Richard Steele, the Whig MP, essayist and playwright wrote a piece entitled “Peace and Dunkirk: Being an excellent new song upon the surrender of Dunkirk” which was advertised in the Examiner. It is ironic that this publicationwas the mouthpiece of the Tory ministry.  One MP commented: “The town is very empty, and the clamour of the faction is, that Dunkirke is not yet demolished”.

[8] The Young Pretender, the grandson of the deposed James II.  The Young Pretender was living in France under the protection of the French king

Examiner (Tory periodical) carried an advert for the Whig Richard Steele’s The Importance of Dunkirk Considered (London 1713)

[10] As reward for his efforts in helping bring about peace Henry St John, the ambitious second in command to Robert Harley the Tory leader, was given a baronetcy and became Viscount Bolingbroke. However, he thought he should have been given an earldom.

11 In October 1713 Shrewsbury took up his post as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.

12 Basset was originally a French card game at which notoriously high stakes could be lost. It was particularly popular in English court circles in the early 18th century.

[13] Shrewsbury’s mother in law seems to have produced two illegitimate children one of whom was notorious for having poisoned a love rival.

14  A frontage was a tall head-dress worn in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.


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