Page images
PDF
EPUB

Baron de Tott, then in the service of the Porte, to Madame de Tesse. When they were produced in her society, every body thought them very fine, but nobody knew what use to make of them. It was determined that they would make pretty couvre- pieds and veils for the cradle; but the fashion wore out with the shawls, and ladies returned to their eider-down quilts.'

"Monsieur Ternaux observed that 'though the produce of the Cashmerian looms had long been known in Europe, they did not become a vogue until after Napoleon's expedition to Egypt; and that even then they took, in the first instance, but slowly.' The shawl was still a novelty in France, when Josephine, as yet but the wife of the First Consul, knew not how to drape its elegant folds, and stood indebted to the brusque Rapp for the grace with which she afterwards wore it.

"'Permittez que je vous fasse l'observation/ said Rapp, as they were setting off for the opera; 'que votre schall n'est pas mis avec cette grace qui vous est habituelle.'

"Josephine laughingly let him arrange it in the manner of the Egyptian women. This impromptu toilette caused a little delay, and the infernal machine exploded in vain!

"What destinies waited upon the arrangement of this cashemir! A moment sooner or later, and the shawl might have given another course to events, which would have changed the whole face of Europe."*

* Lady Morgan's France in 1829-30.

The Empress Josephine (says her biographer) had quite a passion for shawls, and I question whether any collection of them was ever as valuable as hers. At Navarre she had one hundred and fifty, all extremely beautiful and high-priced. She sent designs to Constantinople, and the shawls made after these patterns were as beautiful as they were valuable. Every week M. Lenormant came to Navarre, and sold her whatever he could obtain that was curious in this way. I have seen white shawls covered with roses, bluebells, perroquets, peacocks, &c, which I believe were not to be met with any where else in Europe; they were valued at 15,000 and 20,000 francs each.

The shawls were at length sold by auction at Malmaison, at a rate much below their value. All Paris went to the sale.

231

CHAPTER XV.

THE FIELD OF THE CLOTH OF GOLD.

"Where are the proud and lofty dames,
Their jewell'd crowns, their gay attire,
Their odours sweet?
Where are the love-enkindled flames,
The bursts of passionate desire
Laid at their feet?

Where are the songs, the troubadours,
The music which delighted then ?—
It speaks no more.

Where is the dance that shook the floors,
And all the gay and laughing train,
And all they wore?

"The royal gifts profusely shed,
The palaces so proudly built,
With riches stor'd;
The roof with shining gold o'erspread,
The services of silver gilt,
The secret hoard,

The Arabian pards, the harness bright,
The bending plumes, the crowded mews,
The lacquey train,

Where are they ?—where !—all lost in night,
And scatter'd as the early dews
Across the plain,"

Bo Wring's Anc. Span. Romances.

Romance and song have united to celebrate the splendours of the "Field of the Cloth of Gold." The most scrupulously minute and faithful of recorders has detailed day by day, and point by point, its varied and showy routine, and every subsequent historian has borrowed from the pages of the old chronicler; and these dry details have been so expanded by the breath of Fancy, and his skeleton frame has been so fleshed by the magical drapery of talent, that there seems little left on which the imagination can dilate, or the pen expatiate.

The astonishing impulse which has in various ways within the last few years been given to the searching of ancient records, and the development of hitherto obscure and comparatively uninteresting details, and vesting them in an alluring garb, has made us as familiar with the domestic records of the eighth Henry, as in our school-days we were with the orthodox abstract of necessary historical information,—that "Henry the Eighth ascended the throne in the 18th year of his age;" that "he became extremely corpulent;" that "he married six wives, and beheaded two." Not even affording gratuitously the codicil which the talent of some writer hath educed—that "if Henry the Eighth had not beheaded his wives, there would have been no impeachment on his gallantry to the fair sex."

But in describing this, according to some, l( the most magnificent spectacle that Europe ever beheld," and to others, "a heavy mass of allegory and frippery," historians have been contented to pourtray the outward features of the gorgeous scene, and have slightly, if at all, touched on the contending feelings which were veiled beneath a broad though thin surface of concord and joy. Truly, it were a task of deep interest, even slightly to picture them, or to attempt to enter into the feelings of the chief actors on that field.

First and foremost, as the guiding spirit of the whole, as the mighty artificer of that pageant on which, however gaudy in its particulars the fates of Europe were supposed to depend, and the earnest eyes of Europe were certainly fixed—comes Wolsey. —Gorgeously habited himself, and the burnished gold of his saddle cloth only partially relieved by the more sombre crimson velvet; nay, his very shoes gleaming with brilliants, and himself withal so lofty in bearing, of so noble a presence, that this very magnificence seemed but a natural appendage, Wolsey took his lofty way from monarch to monarch; and so well did he become his dignity, that none but kings, and such kings as Henry and Francis, would have drawn the eyes of the myriad spectators from himself. And surely he was now happy; surely his ambition was now gratified to the uttermost; now, in the eyes of all Europe did the two proudest of her princes not merely associate with him almost as an equal, but openly yield to his suggestions—almost bow to his decisions. No— loftily as he bore himself, courtly as was his demeanour, rapid and commanding as was his eloquence, and influential as seemed his opinions on all and every one around—the cardinal had a mind ill at ease, as, despite his self-control, was occasionally testified by his contracted brow and thoughtful aspect. After exerting all the might of his mighty influence, and for his own aggrandisement, to procure this meeting between the two potentates, he

« PreviousContinue »