After the suppression of the Stuart rising in 1715, the Tower was crammed with the adherents of the fallen dynasty, and so were the other prisons of Newgate, the Fleet, and the Marshalsea.
The block and axe were brought in again, and the river near Tower Hill black with the innumerable crowd of spectators on foot and others in newly erected wooden galleries and at the windows of all the houses round, where a view of the raised scaffold could be obtained, must indeed have been a sad and strange sight.
George I. had passed the Tower not long before on a trip down the river. On the 22nd of August, 1715, the King, the Prince and Princess of Wales, and a numerous party of nobility, went, with music on board their barges, from Whitehall, the old Privy Stairs there being still kept intact, to Limehouse.
When they returned in the evening, the captains of the shipping in the river suspended lanterns in their rigging, and the houses on both banks were illuminated; an incredible number of boats filled with spectators attended the Royal party, and cannon were repeatedly fired from the Tower wharf during the day and evening.
In 1717 there was another grand aquatic procession from the stairs at Whitehall, when the King, accompanied by the Duchess of Newcastle, Lady Godolphin, "Madam" Kilmanseck, and the Earl of Orkney, went in the evening in an open barge to Chelsea.
As they floated up with the tide, surrounded by thousands of boats, fifty performers in a City barge serenaded his Majesty, and played a piece of Handel's composed expressly for the occasion, with which he was so enraptured that it was repeated three times.
At eleven o'clock at night the barge reached Chelsea, where the King landed and proceeded to the mansion of Lady Catherine Jones, daughter of the Earl of Ranelagh, where he supped and was further entertained by a concert until two in the morning.
The piece composed by Handel is supposed to have been the famous Water Music. Handel had come over in 1712, and Queen Anne was so pleased with his music that she requested him to stay and take the leadership of the Opera, which he did, although he was under contract to return to Hanover.
This naturally provoked the anger of the Court there, and when George succeeded to the crown, Handel was rather afraid of meeting him, but this timely compliment disarmed the King's anger, and he was restored to favour.
The Princess of Wales, Caroline of Anspach, is said to have frequently hired the common watermen to row her about on the same part of the river, and to have once boarded a Westcountry barge and partaken with the men of their homely fare of salt pork and bread, distributing a tenfold equivalent of guineas.
Both the Prince and Princess, whom the King called "cette diablesse," did as much as lay in their power to make themselves popular, which the King never attempted to do, and the relations between father and son were very much strained.Next page: Doggett's coat and badge race