Charles the Second

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Quite early in the reign of Charles the Second, the Swedish Ambassador was received in this fashion, and unfortunately at the Tower Stairs a scene occurred which marred the peaceful character of these entries.

It had been the custom for other ambassadors to be present at any new arrival, and there had been for long a rivalry between the ambassadors of His Catholic Majesty of Spain and His Most Christian Majesty of France which should take precedence after the King's coaches.

The two ambassadors were the Baron de Vatteville for Spain and the Comte d'Estrades, Marshal of France, and it was well known beforehand that, on the arrival of the Swedish Ambassador, the two embassies intended to settle this question by force of arms.

Each ambassador sent his coach well attended with an armed retinue. As this was a delicate matter in which the King could not very well meddle without taking sides for one or the other, he ordered that no Englishman should in any way interfere, but let them settle it themselves.

He sent a strong escort of his guards and posted soldiers in the city, and the Lord Mayor called out the trained bands in expectation of a brawl. When it happened there was considerable bloodshed and a number of deaths. No sooner had the King's coach drawn up at the Stairs with the Swedish one next, than the Spaniards placed themselves immediately behind it.

The French then tried to cut in, and were supported by 150 horses and foot soldiers, armed with muskets, carbines, and pistols, which they fired at the Spanish retinue. One of these, however, dexterously crawled under the horses of the French coach and hamstrung two of them and wounded a third, which, falling, hindered the coach from moving.

The coachman was dragged from his box and one of the postilions fell, mortally wounded, into the arms of an Englishman who stepped out of the crowd to help him, and this gentleman was wounded in his turn by a Spaniard. Brickbats were freely thrown. This all took place on the wharf, and the fight continued past the Bulwark Tower and up Tower Hill.

The Spaniards held the position and the French horse had to retreat. Besides those of them who were slain by bullets on the wharf and near the Bulwark, there was a valet de chambre of the Spanish Ambassador and six more, and among them a poor English plasterer. Forty were wounded.

It was some little time before the French coach was able to make a start, and it was then unable to retrieve the position and had to take a back place, although Monsieur d'Estrades had received positive injunctions from Louis the Fourteenth to claim precedence, and precipitate this unseemly fracas.

Evelyn, who was asked by the King to make a careful and impartial inquiry into the case, reports that "bricks were thrown by his Majesty's subjects, but not until they were incensed by the wounds which they received from the shot which came in among them, by which some of them, 'tis said, are since dead, and they were forced to defend themselves with what they found at hand."

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