Imágenes de páginas

Thus there were eighty-two documents, which were certainly in one sense of the word “originals.” The memorial of 1821 contained copies of eleven other documents, and the pamphlet contained fifteen more, which did not appear elsewhere. Besides these, there were twenty or thirty documents referred to by Mr. Bell in the letters which he wrote by the authority of Mrs. Serres. But what sort of documents were those which were produced ? The internal evidence proved that they were the most ridiculous, absurd, preposterous, series of forgeries that the perverted ingenuity of man ever invented. If every expert that ever lived in the world swore to the genuineness of every one of these documents, they could not possibly believe them to be genuine. They were all written on little scraps and slips of paper, such as no human being would ever have used for the purpose of recording transactions of this kind, and it would be proved that in every one of these pieces of paper the watermark of date was wanting.

The Lord Chief Justice remarked that a will of Queen Hannah was described as being written on parchment in one of the documents, and the will produced was written on paper.

The Attorney-General said that, in order to explain the mutilated state of the papers, Lord Warwick, who was used as common vouchee, wrote a letter stating that he had cut them to make them lie in a smaller compass in Warwick castle.

The foreman of the jury here interrupted the Attorney-General, and said that the jury were unanimously of opinion that there was no necessity to hear any further evidence, as they were convinced that the signatures to the documents were not genuine.

The Lord Chief Justice: You share the opinion which my learned brothers and I have entertained for a long time, that every one of the documents is spurious.

One of the jurymen said they had come to that conclusion, not on the evidence of the expert alone, but upon an examination of the documents themselves.

The Lord Chief Justice : You are quite right. The adept only assists you in forming an opinion by pointing out the grounds of his opinion. The adept really gave as a reason for believing some of the signatures to be genuine, that they were such bad imitations, and he admitted that the signatures of Chatham and Dunning were spurious.

Mr. W. Smith said he felt it his duty to make some observations to the jury before they delivered their verdict. He said he believed, on his word and honour as a gentleman, that the documents which the petitioner had produced

The Lord Chief Justice : I insist on your not finishing that sentence. It is a violation of a fundamental rule of conduct, which every advocate ought to observe, to give the jury your personal opinion.

Mr. W. Smith said he would not intentionally trespass beyond his proper limits, but he was entitled to say that the eminent genealogical lawyer who took up the petitioner's case in 1821 believed her documents to be genuine on his word of honour as a gentleman. The case had, he said, been prejudiced at the outset by the observation of the Attorney-General, that it was a claim on the part of his client to the throne. If there was any such claim, however, it was on behalf of Hannah Lightfoot's children, and the Lightfoot documents were so mixed up with the documents upon which he relied that he was obliged to give them in evidence. He next commented upon the suggestion that Mrs. Serres was insane, and contended that it was altogether inconsistent with the suggestion that she had been guilty of fraud and forgery. The statement in some of the documents that the marriage was by banns, simply meant that the marriage was not by licence. Before the Marriage Act the banns were called out formally at the time of marriage, and not in the manner now prescribed in the parish church. The dates on many of the documents were not the dates when they were written, but the date when the events occurred to which they had reference. The petitioner's explanation of the reason why Mrs. Serres did not ask Lord Warwick who was her mother, was quite consistent with the documents, which showed that Lord Warwick was in a very bad state of health after 1815, and seldom visited her. He reminded the jury that Mrs. Serres had always been anxious to have her documents examined from the first time when she brought forward her claims, and said it was absurd to suppose that she had, as was suggested, forged a set of documents proving her own illegitimacy. The documents brought to her knowledge in 1815 proved that there had been a narriage; but she at one time supposed that it was not a valid marriage.

The Lord Chief Justice: She says first that she is the daughter of the Duke by a married woman, and next that she is his daughter by a woman whom he has seduced under promise of marriage. How can those statements be reconciled with the certificates of marriage said to have been found among


papers in 1815 ?

Mr. W. Smith said the two statements were equally inconsistent with each other, and she was evidently a weak untutored woman, who did not know the law, but she always kept to the story that she was the daughter of the Duke of Cumberland. He argued that it was incredible that a forger should have fabricated such a mass of unnecessary documents, that their informality was a strong proof of their genuineness, and that a woman of the character of Mrs. Serres, as described by the Attorney-General, was incapable of having forged them. Was it not a fact that she had received an allowance of 4001. a year from the Duke of Kent?

The Attorney-General : It is a perfect fiction.

Mr. W. Smith said it was evident there was some connexion between her and the Royal Family, and that connexion must have been legitimate. In conclusion, he reminded them of the truthful manner in which his aged client had given her evidence, and entreated them, before giving their verdict, to take the documents into their hands and examine them carefully, and say whether they could resist the conclusion that they were genuine.

The Lord Chief Justice, in summing up, said it was a question whether the internal evidence in the documents of spuriousness and forgery was not quite as strong as the evidence resulting from the examination of their handwriting. Two or three of them appeared to be such outrages upon all probability, that even if there had been strong evidence of the genuineness of their handwriting, no man of common sense could come to the conclusion that they were genuine, Some of them were produced to prove that King George III. had ordered the fraud to be committed of rebaptizing an infant child under a false name as the daughter of persons whose daughter she was not; another showed that the King had divested the Crown of one of its noblest appendages,-the Duchy of Lancaster,—by a document which he was not competent by law to execute, written upon a loose piece of paper, and countersigned by W. Pitt and Dunning; by another document, also written upon a loose piece of paper, he expressed his Royal will to the Lords and Commons that when he should be dead they should recognize this lady as Duchess of Cumberland. These papers bore the strongest internal evidence of their spuriousness. The evidence as to the marriage of the

Duke of Cumberland with Olive Wilmot could not be separated from that part of the evidence which struck at the legitimacy of the Royal Family by purporting to establish the marriage of George III. to a person named Hannah Lightfoot. Could any one believe that the documents in which that marriage was attested by W. Pitt and Dunning were genuine ? But the petitioner could not help putting forward the certificates of that marriage, because two of them were written on the backs of the certificate of the marriage of the Duke of Cumberland with Olive Wilmot. As men of intelligence, they could not fail to see the motive for writing the certificates of those two marriages on the same piece of paper. The first claim to the consideration of the Royal Family put forward by Mrs. Serres was, that she was the illegitimate daughter of the Duke of Cumber. land by Mrs. Payne, a married woman. Her next claim was, that she was his daughter by an unmarried sister of Dr. Wilmot. She lastly put forward her present claim, that she was the offspring of a lawful marriage between the Duke and Olive, the daughter of Dr. Wilmot. At the time when the claim was put forward in its last shape, it was accompanied by an attempt at intimidation, not only on the score of the injustice that would be done if George IV. refused to recognize the claim, but also on the score that she was in possession of docu. ments showing that George III., at the time when he was married to Queen Charlotte, had a wife living, and had issue by her, and consequently that George IV., who had then just ascended the throne, was illegitimate, and was not the lawful Sovereign of the realm. And the documents having reference to George III.'s first marriage were inseparably attached to the documents by which the legitimacy of Mrs. Serres was supposed to be established, with the view, no doubt, of impressing on the King's mind the fact that she could not put forward her claims, as she intended to do, if these were not recognized, without at the same time making public the fact that the marriage between George III. and Queen Charlotte was invalid. Could any one for a single moment believe in the authenticity of certificates like these, that George III., at the time of his marriage to Queen Charlotte, had been already married, and that his first Queen was then living, and he had had issue by her? One of the documents produced purported to be her will, and was signed “Hannah Regina." Was it possible to imagine, even if such a person had ever existed and had asserted her right to that title, that great officers of State like Chatham and Dunning should have outraged all propriety by recognizing that claim and putting their names to a document in which she assumed that title? These things spoke for themselves. In another document the Duke of Kent gave the guardianship of his daughter to the Princess Olive. Remembering the way in which that lady had been brought up, and the society in which she had moved, could the Duke of Kent ever have dreamt of superseding his own wife, the mother of the infant Princess, and passing by all the other distinguished members of his family, and conferring on Mrs. Serres, the landscape-painter, the sole guardianship of the future Queen of England ? It was for them to say, having looked at the handwriting of these documents, whether they believed them to be genuine. They must also bear in mind that the way in which the claim had been brought forward, first one story being told and then another, laid it open to grave suspicion; and the explanation of these inconsistent stories was equally open to observation. If Lord Warwick communicated any of these documents to Mrs. Serres in 1815, some of them must undoubtedly have informed her that there had been a marriage between the Duke and an Olive Wilmot, and her claim to be his illegitimate daughter was inconsistent with her knowledge of that fact. She seemed to have failed in her


appeals to George IV. to recognize that claim, and then, when George III., Lord Warwick, and the Duke of Kent were dead, she brought forward the present claim, and supported it by the documents now produced. In each of the claims which she made at different times, she appealed to documents in her possession by which they were supported. What was the irresistible inference? Why, that documents were from time to time prepared to meet the form which her claims from time to time assumed. A great deal had been said about different members of the Royal Family having countenanced and supported this lady. He could quite understand, if an appeal was made on her behalf as an illegitimate daughter of the Duke of Cumberland, that a generous-minded prince might say, “As you have our blood flowing in your veins, you shall not be left in want and penury;" and very likely papers might have been shown to some members of the Royal Family in support of that claim, which they believed to be genuine. It was just as easy to fabricate papers showing her illegitimacy as to fabricate those now produced, and probably such papers would not be very rigorously scrutinized and criticized. But it was not possible to believe that the documents now produced (including the Hannah Lightfoot certificates) had been shown to members of the Royal Family and pronounced by them to be genuine. He could not understand why the secret was to be kept after the Duke of Cumberland's death, when there was no longer any danger that he would incur the risk of punishment for bigamy, and why the death of George III. should be fixed upon as the time for disclosing it. The death of George III. was the very time when it would become important to keep the secret; for if it had been then disclosed, it would have shown that neither George IV. nor the Duke of Kent were entitled to succeed to the throne. Why, then, should the Duke of Kent stipulate for the keeping of the secret until George III. died? They must look at all the circumstances of the case, and say whether they believed the documents produced by the petitioner to be genuine.

The Lord Chief Baron: As you stopped the Attorney-General, gentlemen, I don't very well see how you can find against him without hearing his case to the end.

The jury, without hesitation, found that they were not satisfied that Olive Serres, the mother of Mrs. Ryves, was the legitimate daughter of Henry Frederick, Duke of Cumberland, and Olive his wife ; and that they were not satisfied that Henry Frederick, Duke of Cumberland, was lawfully married to Olive Wilmot on the 4th of March, 1767. The other issues, affirming that Mrs. Ryves was the legitimate daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Serres, and that W. H. Ryves was the legitimate son of Mr. and Mrs. Ryves, they found for the petitioners.

The Attorney-General: I should state that we were prepared to prove that Dr. Wilmot was at Oxford on the day of the pretended marriage, and that Lord Warwick used the name of Greville, and not that of Brooke, up to the time when he succeeded to the earldom.

Mr. W. Smith said he was prepared to controvert those facts.

On the motion of the Attorney-General, the Court ordered the documents produced by the petitioners to be impounded.

Thus ended this extraordinary trial.

Not the least curious part of the case was, that if Mrs. Ryves had succeeded in making out that her mother was a Royal Princess, she would have established at the same time her own illegitimacy. The alleged marriage of the Duke of Cumberland was celebrated before the Royal Marriage Act; and consequently, if Mrs.

Serres had been the Duke's daughter, she would have been a Princess of the Blood Royal. But that Act had been passed before her marriage with Mr. Serres, and would have rendered it invalid, so that her issue would have been illegitimate. As it was, Mrs. Ryves obtained a declaration of her legitimacy, but at the cost of her pretended Royal descent. It is possible, as the Attorney-General said, that she, like her mother, may have brooded over the story till she persuaded herself it was true; but it was unpardonable that more responsible persons should have abetted her in the delusion. As the story, however, was brought so prominently forward, it is satisfactory that it has been so thoroughly exposed. It will only be remembered for the future as an extraordinary monument of the ingenuity and perverted industry which may be exerted by vanity and madness.





A suit of considerable interest in its bearing on the question of the Colonial Episcopate was decided by the Master of the Rolls. The proceeding arose out of the judgment of the Privy Council on the “Colenso case in March, 1865"-a judgment of which the effect was to disturb almost all received opinions as to the constitutional position of the Colonial Church. The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council did not, indeed, negative the right of Bishop Colenso to assume the Episcopal character, or that of Bishop Gray to call himself Metropolitan of the South African Church, whatever spiritual authority such titles may import; but they denied that any coercive jurisdiction could be exercised by either, inasmuch as the patents which purported to confer that jurisdiction were null and void in law. They declared that “there was no power in the Crown, by virtue of its prerogative, to establish a metropolitan see or province, or to create an ecclesiastical corporation whose status, rights, and authority the colony should be bound to recognize.” “It may be true that the Crown, as legal head of the Church, has a right to command the consecration of a Bishop, but it has no power to assign him any diocese, or give him any sphere of action," either within the United Kingdom or within any colony which has received legislative institutions, unless by special provisions of an Act of Parliament. Upon the delivery of this judgment Bishop Colenso applied to the trustees of the “Colonial Bishoprics Fund” for the arrears of the income annually payable out of that fund to the Bishopric of Natal, which had been withheld and carried to a separate account since his illegal deposition in the previous year. The trustees, however, among

whom were the Archbishop of Canterbury, Mr. Gladstone, Vice-Chancellor Page Wood, and Mr. Hubbard, took a different view of their duty. They contended that, inasmuch as Bishop Colenso was not a suffragan Bishop within the Province of Cape Town, he was not a Bishop at all in the sense contemplated by the original promoters of the fund, and could receive no benefit from it. Bishop Colenso therefore sought redress from the Court of Chancery, and the matter

« AnteriorContinuar »