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The active mind of Lord Macaulay, which applied itself, and with good fruit, to so many subjects, once considered how some stately ecclesiastical structure might have been raised in grateful commemoration of our glorious Peace in 1814. What in such a case might have been a suitable inscription? Here is the one that Lord Macaulay composed and gave to me (May 8, 1847).
Lord Mahon to the Right Hon. T. B. Macaulay. "
MY DEAR MACAULAY, Brighton, Jan. 3, 1849. At page 440 of your first volume you give an account of a curious broadside from “evidently a zealous Roman Catholic,” containing an account of the death of Charles the Second, and you add: “The initials are perfectly intelligible except in one place. It is said that the D. of Y. was reminded of the duty which he owed to his brother by P. M. A. C. F. I must own
myself quite unable to decipher the last five letters.” In attempting to play the part of GEdipus on this occasion, I beg to assure you that I make no pretensions to that character in general. I have very often found myself at fault on such subjects, and have puzzled long and fruitlessly while others have pounced on the meaning at once; and I think that success in such things is apt to depend much less on skill or experience than on accident and first impression. But now to the point. On considering the deathbed scene of Charles the Second, we must, I think, bear in mind that his reconciliation with the Roman Church was claimed as a great honour and triumph by the Roman Catholics, and that they were by no means willing to admit so tainted a source as the Duchess of Portsmouth for the first instigation to it. In fact, her suggestion upon the subject, by means of Barillon, appears to have been only simultaneous with another suggestion to the same effect from Catherine of Braganza. “The Duke of York,” says Miss Strickland, “was urged from two very opposite quarters, the Queen and the Duchess of Portsmouth, to obtain for the King the last offices prescribed by the Church of Rome.” It was natural that of these two sources the Roman Catholics in all their narratives should prefer the Queen's ; it was natural also that, as was probably the truth, they should ascribe the merit of the original impulse, not to the unlettered though zealous lady, but rather to one of her Roman Catholic advisers or chaplains.
With this clue, therefore, if we look to a list of these chaplains, as given by Chamberlayne in 1679, we shall find that Her Majesty had in her suite two Portuguese almoners or chaplains, and that the name of one was Father Manoel Pereyra.
I conceive, then, that the initials in question, if filled up, might probably stand as follows: Pereyra (Manoel) A Capuchin Friar.
Ever yours truly,
Right Hon. T. B. Macaulay to Lord Mahon.
MY DEAR MAHON, Albany, London, Jan. 4, 1849. P. M. A. C. F. has set as many people to work as the authorship of Junius. I am delighted to think that I have been the humble instrument of calling forth so much industry and ingenuity. Among the conjectures which have been communicated to me, one comes from a noble person whom I had never in my life seen or heard of—Lord Sidney Osborne. I can without flattery assure you that yours is the best guess that, as far as I know, has yet been made. Nevertheless, I am not satisfied. It appears from the Chaillot MS. that the Queen applied to the Duchess about the King's spiritual state, and that the Duchess applied to the Duke. Why should the Duchess, who undoubtedly was, during part of that day, in the same room with her husband, employ a messenger? If she employed a messenger, why should she select one of the Queen's servants rather than one of her own 2 Observe, too, that none of the Queen's priests knew any language in which it was possible to communicate with Charles. That was the reason which made it necessary to call in Huddlestone. Now, if Manuel Pereira, or, as you are forced to call him, Pereira Manuel, could not make himself understood by Charles, he would hardly, I think, have been selected to carry a message to James, who does not appear to have been a better linguist than his brother. I will give you my own explanation, in order that you may take your revenge upon it. It seems clear to me that the writer of the broadside meant the letters P. M. A. C. F. to be understood by somebody, or he would not have used them. It seems to me equally clear that he did not mean them to be understood by everybody, or he would have used clearer signs, such as her M. the Q., or her R. H. the D. How, then, do men act when they insert, in a paper likely to be seen by all sorts of persons, some things meant to be understood only by a few P. They use a cipher. Is it not highly probable that there was in that age a Roman Catholic cipher? It was the age of ciphers. The Scotch Whigs had one. The agents of the Prince of Orange had one. Coleman used one in his letters to his fellow Papists. I think it therefore very likely that there may have been a cipher known to every Jesuit and Franciscan in the kingdom, and that in this cipher every person of great note in the State may have been designated by some letter or combination of letters. If once this supposition be admitted, all difficulty is at an end. We may find ten solutions in a minute, for the notation may have been purely arbitrary. P. M. may have meant the Queen, and A. C. F. the Duchess, or vice versä. I think with you that the agency of the mistress would not have been mentioned in a paper written by a Roman Catholic for the edification of his brethren.