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by land and water, the brilliant Courts of Warsaw and of Vienna, where he left so deep an impression, that years afterwards travellers found, in the title of his friend, a passport to the best society; the gallicised Munich, gay, vicious, and superstitious; the barrack-like Berlin, where everybody not on parade was carousing and gambling, and whence philosophy failed to banish ennui and indigestion; but where, across every scene, there flitted a phantom with fair face and golden hair, like the treacherous nymphs of her country's fables, luring the traveller on to trouble and sorrow.'
This very year 1784, however, afforded him one of those rare opportunities of distinction for which an English diplomatist of our time might watch and hope in vain. When he resumed his post, the King of Denmark was sunk in idiotcy, and the QueenDowager reigned supreme in his name. She was entirely devoted to the King of Prussia, and her sway was notoriously inimical to English interests. The overthrow of her and her party, long_meditated, came to pass on the 14th of April, 1788, when the Prince Royal, the heir-apparent, having just attained his majority with the completion of his sixteenth year, took his seat in council, and desired to read a memorial which he drew from his bosom. It contained a statement of reasons (drawn up by Count Bernstorff) for an entire change of Government; and it was followed by a second instrument, providing that no future decree or order in Cabinet should be valid without the
countersign of the Prince. The King signed whatever was required of him, and the coup d'état was struck. The parties were so evenly balanced, and their passions so violently excited, that there was every chance of their coming to blows. Now was the time for a representative of England who did not shrink from responsibility and took in the whole situation at a glance.
'The person,' wrote Mr. Elliot to Lord Carmarthen, April 24th, 1784, 'who has principally the ear and confidence of the Prince Royal has made no secret to me of his apprehensions; and declared that it was the determination of their party rather to perish than to abandon the young Prince again into the hands of people whose passions are now too inflamed to know any bounds.
'For my own part, I have thought myself under the necessity of taking a decision without waiting for any instructions from home, as there was no possibility of their arriving before the conclusion of this important transaction. I therefore desired this gentleman to let his Royal Highness know, that, should the opposite party have come to any overt act of violence, I should have asked leave to appear openly in his defence; and, by the fortunate arrival of a number of English ships at this critical conjuncture, there was little doubt but that I might have procured essential assistance from their crews and other persons attached to me in Copenhagen.
'Thanks be to God, the personal resolution, constancy, and prudence of the Prince Royal have alone overcome every obstacle.'
The course he took was officially commended in the highest terms and warmly approved by George III., who was his own foreign secretary whenever his German interests were directly or indirectly concerned,-and whatever affected Denmark more or less affected Hanover, Harris wrote in reference to these transactions that 'Hugh Elliot had not made half enough of his share in them.'
His moral courage (a far rarer quality than physical) and his political coup-d'ail were still more strikingly displayed in 1788, when he ventured on the extraordinary step of ranging England temporarily against the Court and country to which he was accredited. The combinations had varied since 1784, and Prussia and England were opposed to Russia and France, when Gustavus III. of Sweden made his ill-advised attempt to check the grasping ambition of Russia in the North. With all his dash, bravery, resolution, eloquence, and faculty of kindling patriotic enthusiasm, Gustavus must have succumbed without the timely, effective, and uncompromising aid of Elliot, who, in the thick of the crisis, writes thus to his official chief at home:
The pressing circumstances of his Swedish Majesty, and the immediate danger to which the balance of the North was exposed, left me no time to wait for further instructions than those contained in your lordship's despatches. Indeed, the very positive though general instructions given me, to prevent by every means a change in the relative situation of the northern nations, invested me, as I conceived, with full power to act according to the exigency of circumstances.'
He accordingly left Copenhagen for Sweden, and the urgent necessity for his presence there, with the ensuing results, cannot be better told than in his own animated words:
'On my arrival in Sweden, after a search of eleven days, I traced the King wandering from place to place, endeavouring to animate his unarmed peasants to hopeless resistance. His very couriers were ignorant of his abode. At length, exhausted with fatigue and illness, I reached the King at Carlstadt upon the 29th of September. Here I found his carriage ready to convey him to a place of greater security; without generals, without troops, and with few attendants, he was devoid of every means of defence. The King's own words were, that "I found him in the same situation with James II., when he was obliged to fly his kingdom and abandon his crown." He was on the point of falling a victim to the ambition of Russia, the treachery of Denmark, and the factious treason of his nobility. In the sincerity of distress the King also added, "to the mistakes of his own conduct."
Backed as I presumed myself to be by the joint concert of the Kings of Great Britain and Prussia, I did not limit the expressions dictated by the animating conviction of the reality of my powers, and replied with confidence-" Sire, prêtez-moi votre couronne, je vous la rendrai avec lustre." On further explanation, the King consented to adopt all those measures which I thought most suitable to his situation.'
In a narrative which he subsequently sent to Lord Carmarthen, he says:
I knew, my lord, how decisive the appearance of an English minister, at that trying moment, would be at Gothenburg-it reunited the well-disposed, and disheartened the disaffected. An early acquaintance with the art of war and science of engineering enabled me to point out the most important positions for defence; and the voluntary offer of assistance from the gallant spirit of the English seamen, then in that harbour, ready to man the batteries under my command, would, I trust, have helped to render the Danish attack of a very doubtful issue, had those very preparations not had the more desirable effect of inducing the Prince of Hesse to treat for an armistice of eight days, in which interval the Prussian declaration arrived, and I was confessed to have been no less the saviour of Holstein than of Gothenburg, Sweden, and its sovereign.
To so circumscribed a period had the distresses of the King reduced the possibility of retrieving his affairs, that, had I reached Carlstadt twenty-four hours later than I did, or been less fortunate in concluding the first armistice before the expiration of forty-eight hours, Gothenburg must have fallen; and I have the authority of the King, seconded by the voice of the whole country, to say, in that case there would have been no safety for the sovereign in his own dominions, and that nothing less than a successful war, carried on by foreign powers, could have rescued Sweden from a dismemberment by
Russia and Denmark.'
Eleven days after Elliot's first meeting with Gustavus, the rescued monarch could announce that the storm had blown over, and truthfully as well as gracefully declare, 'Je ne puis assez louer Elliot : il vient de faire un grand coup qui fait honneur tant à son jugement qu'à son courage, et qui, en sauvant la Suède, conserve la balance de l'Europe et couvre l'Angleterre de gloire.' No sooner was his Swedish Majesty out of one scrape than he was hurrying in the excitement of the sudden rise of his fortunes into another, when Elliot stepped in and compelled as well as counselled moderation. It was in reference to his intervention to prevent the threatened renewal of hostilities that the Prince Royal (the de facto King) of Denmark, in the presence of the military suite, called him 'l'ami commun du Nord!
The cavils raised at his exceeding his instructions by what
might have turned out an actual declaration of war in the name of England against an ancient ally and friendly power, were speedily silenced by the warm approval of his government; and his services on both these memorable occasions being of a character to merit either reprimand and dismissal or promotion to a far more elevated sphere, we cannot help associating him in some sort with the village worthies in posse to whom Gray does tardy justice in his Elegy. The man who rode on the whirlwind and directed the storm at Gothenburg was born for great achievements. It was no spirit of vanity, it was intuitive self-knowledge or an instinct superior to reason, that inspired his lifelong yearning for a career in which military genius would have been enhanced by statesmanship; and in the minister of a succession of second-rate Courts may have lain hid-if not a Marlborough or a Wellington-a Wolfe, a Hastings, or a Clive. If the second Pitt had been endowed with the same knowledge of men as the first, he would have found more fitting employment for Elliot than sending him on a secret and obscure mission to Paris in 1790 and 1791, or than appointing him minister at the Court of Saxony in 1792, where he remained till 1802. The collected Correspondence being no longer available, we know of no event worth mentioning that occurred during this ten years' mission, if we except the visit of Nelson and Lady Hamilton to Dresden recorded in the amusing and graphic pages of Mrs. Richard Trench. These have already been transferred to this Journal,* and we shall merely add one short extract:
'Mr. Elliot, our Minister at Dresden, is a very pleasing man, about forty; his style of conversation and tone of voice are highly captivating. He has a large family of little cherubs, and a charming daughter who marries Mr. Paine this week.'
This was the only surviving child by the first wife. His second is described as a beautiful girl of humble birth, whose personal qualities justified his choice. That such was the family estimate of her may be collected from one of his brother's (Lord Minto's) letters from Dresden.
I have, since I have seen Hugh's wife and beautiful children, better hope of his happiness than I ever had before. She is very handsome -her face and head remarkably pretty, insomuch that the celebrated Virgin of Raphael in the gallery, one of the finest pictures I ever saw, is her exact portrait; while two of the children are so like the cherubs looking up, that I told Hugh it was a family picture. I find her sensible and pleasant, and they are both generally liked, and on the best possible footing here.'
*No. 221, Jan. 1862, pp. 44-46.
War having been declared between England and France after the short Peace of Amiens, in May, 1803, Elliot, then in England on leave, was sent as minister to Naples at twenty-four hours' notice, Lord Nelson giving him a passage in the 'Victory.' The first step he took showed his characteristic decision and sagacity. He insisted that the King, Ferdinand IV., who had retired to Caserta to avoid a personal interview, should return to receive his credentials. 'It was right,' he said, ' to show that the presence of a British minister in the capital of Naples, a British man-of-war in the harbour, and of Lord Nelson's fleet in the Mediterranean, were circumstances calculated to restore confidence to the King.'
The chapters devoted to this mission teem with important events, and there is a romantic and dramatic as well as historical interest attached to them and the personages by which they are influenced or brought about. The Queen, Caroline-who cumulated the characters of Maria Theresa's daughter, Marie Antoinette's sister, and Lady Hamilton's friend-was then simultaneously at feud with her quondam lover, General Acton, the virtual prime minister, and with Napoleon, whom she hated and feared personally and politically. Elliot sided with Acton, whom he deemed the only man in the kingdom capable of securing its independence, and the resulting situation is thus succinctly stated by Lady Minto. 'Acton and Elliot became equally obnoxious to France, and the drama enacting at Naples was thenceforth marked by a double plot :—the external struggle between Bonaparte and the sovereigns of the Two Sicilies, and the internal struggle between the Queen and Sir John Acton.' No combination that could be formed out of such materials as Naples was capable of supplying could check, much less resist, Napoleon, then (1804-5) rapidly approaching the culminating point of the vaulting ambition that o'erleaps itself.' The coarse language, propos indécens, he used regarding her in the presence of the Neapolitan ministers exasperated her into vowing that she would rather spend her life on the mountains of Scotland than throne it in Naples as his slave,―esclave de ce maudit Corse, de ce Corse rusé. She partially revenged herself, woman like, by a fling at Josephine on hearing of the institution of the Order of the Iron Crown: Josephine aussi crée un ordre une étoile qui se porte sur la poitrine. Moi je lui donne la devise, Honni soit qui mal n'en pense.'
After reading a letter addressed to her by Napoleon, Elliot writes: "The first feeling of a gentleman on reading such a letter, addressed to a princess, wife of a sovereign, daughter of Maria Theresa, must be a strong desire to inflict personal chastisement